Duwamish River cleanup change? EPA community meeting Wednesday

(File photo)

A change in government safety standards for a certain chemical could lead to a change in the Duwamish River cleanup plan. So the Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comments, and having an online meeting tomorrow night to talk about it. The EPA says the change could remove an aggregate total of five acres from the 170+ acres that were part of the ~$342 million 7-year-old cleanup plan for the polluted river. Now, they have to ask you about it. The substance in question is benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), a “carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (cPAH).” The federal government raised the level of what’s considered safe, and that’s what could lead to the cleanup change. So the EPA is taking comments until March 8th, and will have an online meeting Wednesday (February 17th) at 5:30 PM, including Q&A. Spanish, Khmer, and Vietnamese interpretation will be available. The Zoom link for viewing/participating is here; meeting ID is 362 818 756. The agenda and slide deck for the meeting are linked here; an EPA one-sheet about the proposed changes is here. If you want to comment on the proposed changes, whether or not you attend the meeting, you can email Region10@epa.gov by March 8th.

18 Replies to "Duwamish River cleanup change? EPA community meeting Wednesday"

  • bolo February 16, 2021 (2:20 pm)

    “The federal government raised the level of what’s considered safe…” regarding “carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (cPAH).”

    Would that federal government have been the EPA as run by a director known to be hostile to the environment in general and the EPA in particular?

    • WSB February 16, 2021 (2:25 pm)

      The changing of the standard dates back to 2017, according to the copious quantities of background info I’ve linked. I wish I could have boiled this down more to “why you should care” – I tried, but time eventually ran out and I just wanted to get this out so anyone interested could attend. – TR

      • Pessoa February 17, 2021 (1:51 pm)

        It was a rhetorical question, I suspect. 

  • dcn February 16, 2021 (2:47 pm)

    I read the linked fact sheet from the EPA. The proposed increases in allowed amounts of BaP are large. For example, in the top 10 cm (the sediment most likely to be disturbed), they want to increase the allowed level of BaP from 380 to 2800 ppb. While values in parts per billion don’t sound like a large amount; BaP is incredibly toxic. The EU has set a target of no more than 1 nanogram of BaP per cubic meter (https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/benzo-a-pyrene-annual-4), which is much stricter than even our standard that they want to loosen. Cleanup of contaminated sediments is very difficult and expensive, since dredging can stir up the toxins. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t or can’t be done.

    • Environmental Professional February 16, 2021 (3:32 pm)

      Cleanup of sediments IS difficult and expensive. But you are comparing apples to oranges in your comment. The EU criteria is for air, being breathed by humans. The sediment criteria for the LDW are based on people touching sediment and eating shellfish that live in the sediment. You cannot directly compare one to the other.

      • dcn February 16, 2021 (4:36 pm)

        You are right. I should have read more closely.

  • for the orcas February 16, 2021 (6:01 pm)

    I do not like hearing of chemical safety standards loosening for the environment. We need to do as much as we can do reduce toxin load on marine life, especially for our endangered salmon, orcas, and starfish.

  • anonyme February 17, 2021 (6:42 am)

    Loosening standards is a step in the wrong direction.  The EPA has been shackled the last four years by a radioactive president, and it is urgent that we make up for the damage done – and then some.  I also think the criteria are skewed in the wrong direction.  Air quality is important, but so is soil, and humans aren’t the only species that matter.

    • AlsoEnviroProfessional February 17, 2021 (9:28 am)

      It isn’t loosening standards, it is updating them based on data derived from recent, extensive toxicological risk assessments. It may seem wrong, but it is data driven with the best science we have.

      • for the orcas February 17, 2021 (12:15 pm)

        More clean up would only be a good thing for the environment. 

        Critical endangered species need us to do more not less right now for their survival. 

        Also, any changes that occurred under the Trump administration were not oriented towards environmental concerns, but with a prioritization towards industry and commerce gains, and now needs to be reviewed and righted, for the environment, and community health.


        • Pessoa February 17, 2021 (2:04 pm)

          Before that, perhaps we should determine the actual danger posed by the lowering of threshold for the environment and for people.  This is where politics and other special interests are intertwined with public policy, unfortunately.  

          • for the orcas February 17, 2021 (6:07 pm)

            It’s already been determined that this is a toxin for the environment. The EPA had a plan in place for this Duwamish clean up. Some standards have since loosened, under the Trump administration, so the plan was revised.

            Again, we need to be doing MORE not LESS for the environment and our endangered species.

        • Pessoa February 17, 2021 (7:38 pm)

          You’ve simply restated your original contention without clarifying your reasoning.  The question is not whether BaP is a toxin (it is) but at what exposure level it becomes a public health concern.  Revising standards doesn’t automatically mean we are unlocking the gates of hell; prior standards may have been unnecessarily cautionary – or not. The 2017 toxicological assessment is not being hidden; it is available for anyone who wants to examine the methodology and studies on which it is based.  

          • for the orcas February 17, 2021 (8:17 pm)

            No, you just seem to be missing the simple point, that, we already know this is toxic, and we need to do more, not less, to reduce the toxic load from the environment. The environment is in crisis. Species are dying. We urgently need to reduce our industrial impacts wherever we can. Period.

      • LivesInWS February 17, 2021 (1:10 pm)

        Reference for publications of these “recent, extensive toxicological risk assessments” ?

  • Gatewood88 February 17, 2021 (10:35 pm)

    Thanks for the notice- but I- like many completely missed it as only one day. As someone who regularly drives by the duwamish during a commute to a job next to the green river (upper duwamish) I’m completely disgusted by the way we treat this river. I hope our government reps and the new admin do not roll back what minuscule protections we have already. 

    • WSB February 17, 2021 (11:42 pm)

      It’s been in our event calendar since Feb. 6th. Anyway, the bulk of the meeting was a video presentation that’ll be on their website and the comment period’s been extended through March 22nd by request of an attendee. We’ll have a report within a few days after we clear out some backlog of earlier events waiting to be written about ….

Sorry, comment time is over.