UPDATE: Reduce the Duwamish River cleanup? Comment period just extended again

(EPA slide explaining ways in which people come into contact with pollutants)

If you have something to say to the Environmental Protection Agency about a plan to reduce the Duwamish River cleanup, today’s your last chance. (10:36 AM UPDATE: This has just been extended until April 21st.)

We reported back in February on the proposal to remove scattered areas totaling about five acres (not yet mapped) from the cleanup zone because the government increased the allowable level of a particular pollutant – benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), a “carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (cPAH).” On the night of the EPA community meeting we covered, the agency agreed to extend the public-comment window, and has since extended it again, but the deadline is tonight.

The reminder came in emails from two interested parties sharing the comment letters they have just submitted. The first is from BJ Cummings, longtime area advocate, who points out “significant questions about the scientific merit of the BaP reassessment” as well as a lack of time for discussion with community members who will be most affected by a cleanup change, which would leave a higher level of the substance in shellfish. Here’s her comment letter:

She refers to comments from an unofficial community coalition called the Duwamish River Accountability Group, which also sent us their letter:

That group’s points also include the time frame as well as the fact the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, an official advisory group, only released its own fact sheet on the proposal about a week ago;

The DRCC fact sheet also notes that the scientists from the UW are concerned that “inconsistent results” among studies including those that led to the proposal to change the cleanup “means that there is still a high level of uncertainty about the cancer risk of BaP.”

As linked in our February report, the full document for review is here; an explanatory one-sheet is here. If you are interested in commenting, 11:59 pm tonight April 21 is the deadline to send email to Region10@epa.gov.

9 Replies to "UPDATE: Reduce the Duwamish River cleanup? Comment period just extended again"

  • for orca mammas April 6, 2021 (9:49 am)

    ‘Reduce the Duwamish river cleanup?’


  • WSB April 6, 2021 (10:38 am)

    Half an hour after we published this, the EPA extended the deadline one more time, to April 21st. Updated above – TR

  • Auntie April 6, 2021 (11:02 am)

    Seems like the EPA under the previous administration lifted a lot of restrictions that should have been left in place. Let’s hope the new leadership gets the EPA back in line.

  • 1WS Resident April 6, 2021 (11:48 am)

    I know it’s a complicated issue but from one narrow point of view…..These toxins don’t harm the clams etc.  It’s only a potential problem for humans when they eat them.  So don’t eat them! The studies from the 50 years ago got updated and they found the risks to be lower than estimated.  If you eat shellfish from the Duwamish 3 times a week you will have the same exposure as someone that eats barbequed food.  And what about the toxins that will be released?  Right now they are slowly degrading in place.  Digging that all up will release it to the environment prematurely.  Nobody “needs” to eat Duwamish shellfish.  It’s primarily a recreational endeavor.  Cleanup resources are better spent elsewhere.

  • Scubafrog April 6, 2021 (12:04 pm)

    Trump’s anti-EPA “cleanup”.  NO. In 2021 the Duwamish deserves, and must receive full attention in regards to cleaning.

  • anonyme April 6, 2021 (12:16 pm)

    I can’t think of a single environmental guideline that should be relaxed.  If anything, I would like to see more restrictions and more enforcement, not less.

  • Pessoa April 6, 2021 (3:34 pm)

    A few acres are being excluded from the cleanup based on several studies that showed BaP  approximately 7x less toxic than previously thought.   Btw, the majority of cancers are caused by DNA replication errors and have nothing to do with the environment or your fondness for BBQ.   https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/most-cancer-cases-arise-from-bad-luck/ 

  • inside_scoop April 6, 2021 (8:55 pm)

    While on the surface this sounds like Trump-EPA shenanigans (of which there were plenty), the update of these clean up levels is a result of the regular and periodic updates of toxicity values by the EPA when newer and better studies are available (see EPA’s IRIS Program).  This particular toxicity value (for BaP) was updated on January 19, 2017, so just before the Trump administration took over.  

  • dunnkld April 7, 2021 (10:42 am)

    This is a complex issue.  Beyond human impact, what is the impact on the marine life food chain? It sounds like the science is still iffy on the toxicity level. Are there any cons to doing the full cleanup beyond saving $1M? That is a drop in the bucket (the average value of 1-2 West Seattle single family houses). How do we keep more of the same pollutants from being added to the Duwamish waterway in the future? Is more cleanup a futile effort if we aren’t actively striving to mitigate future contamination? I guess the DRCC is not taking a position? Does the Duwamish Tribe have a position? Interesting that the EPA would not allow a video record of the round table discussion group according to the DRAG. It seems community outreach has not really been adequate. 

Sorry, comment time is over.