Longfellow Creek polluted by suspected paint spill

(Department of Ecology photo)

An investigation is under way into the source of a spill that has polluted Longfellow Creek in east West Seattle. First, here’s what Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson Sabrina Register tells us:

About 10:30 am yesterday, SPU Spill Response responded to a call about a white substance in Longfellow Creek. SPU inspectors determined the substance to most likely be some of latex paint. The amount is unknown but estimated to be in 5-20 gallon range.

Per protocol, staff called Department of Ecology and Department of Fish and Wildlife and consulted with them on the best course of action. While SPU has captured and disposed of some of the contaminant in the pipe, the two agencies determined last night that a full-scale cleanup of the water would cause more harm than good and recommend leaving the water undisturbed. The water in the creek may be a milky white for a few days to come. SPU Inspectors will continue to source-trace to see if we can find the responsible party and will continue to monitor the creek for several days.

The affected area is centered near 24th/Thistle, a greenspace just east of the Chief Sealth International High School campus, but the spill was followed to an “upstream pipe,” according to information from Ecology that was forwarded by Puget Soundkeeper, which is also monitoring the situation. The Ecology report says part of the reason that pumping out the polluted water isn’t recommended is that it could dry up the creek, which is already in a tenuous situation this time of year, as it’s part daylit, part undergrounded along its path from Roxhill to the Duwamish River.

27 Replies to "Longfellow Creek polluted by suspected paint spill"

  • Auntie June 29, 2021 (2:55 pm)

    While they are referring to this as a “spill,” I suspect it is more like “dumping.” You don’t accidentally spill paint into a creek, now do you? Seems intentional and I hope they find whoever did it and they are fined appropriately.

    • Bill June 29, 2021 (3:50 pm)

      Do you really think that a paper money fine is adequate?

  • AIDM June 29, 2021 (3:27 pm)

    Very disappointing. Someone avoiding a 10 minute there and back trip to McLendon Hardware to utilize their free PaintCare recycling service (https://www.paintcare.org/wp-content/uploads/docs/wa-brochure.pdf) to dispose of this substance. Or to use King County’s similarly close-by and free  hazardous waste program if it happened not to be latex paint.   Likely causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage to the Longfellow Creek Watershed, to native salmon, and to the Puget Sound. Further injecting chemicals into the food chain at a site that is already a designated Superfund site due to historical abuses.   

    • Wseattleite June 29, 2021 (5:28 pm)

      It is only a ten minute trip if one drives their own car.  Perhaps the individual follows the advice of Jort and only walks, bikes, or takes transit, all of which make that trip quite burdensome with 5 – 20 gallons of paint.  Saving the earth one less car ride at a time.

      • mok4315 June 29, 2021 (11:50 pm)

        Nice :)

      • Tracey June 30, 2021 (6:31 am)

        My guess is that they ditched the Lime Scooter they were using for transport in the Creek along with the paint after they realized McLendon’s was too far by scooter. 

      • Jort June 30, 2021 (8:47 am)

        I’m willing to guessing that that the percentage of cars on the road in Seattle carrying latex paint for transportation at any given moment is somewhere around 0.000000000001% 

      • AJP June 30, 2021 (2:47 pm)

        Ha Ha. Many of us cyclists can transport 50+ lbs of anything on our bikes. But hey, the more cars the better, amirite? 

        • Gull June 30, 2021 (5:57 pm)

          My bike could easily transport at least 5 standard cans of paint. What’s funnier than these snarky anti environmentalist comments is that some have no idea how easy it could be to do!

      • skeeter July 1, 2021 (12:10 pm)

        WSEATTLEITE – I like where you are going with this.  The other day the ice cream machine at my local McDonalds was out of service.  Now I’m wondering if that was Jort’s fault, too.  

  • flimflam June 29, 2021 (3:55 pm)

    This is awful and I can’t really imagine any circumstance where this could be accidental. I’d love to be wrong but either way, so sad. Sigh. Needless to say i truly hope that if it can be traced back to someone and that they will be punished as severely as the law allows.

  • Tracey June 29, 2021 (4:45 pm)

    Seattle makes latex paint very difficult to dispose of properly.  They don’t consider it hazardous waste and only allow it in the garbage if it is dried out with kitty litter or sand.  Unfortunately,  Seattle’s strict garbage rules and high fees encourage illegal dumping.   I’ve lived in cities that make latex paint disposal convenient and safe.   Of course,  dumping it in the Creek was unforgiveable. 

    • jay June 29, 2021 (5:44 pm)

      It used to be harder to dispose of latex paint.  The new paint recycling program (see above) is really easy….convenient and safe.

      • Tracey June 30, 2021 (6:01 am)

        Oh my.  Thanks so much for the tips on latex paint.  Why didn’t I know this?  I can tell you that I’m not the only one unaware of this program.  Buying kitty litter to dispose of full cans of paint leftover when I bought this house has been a drag.  I guess I have been sleeping under a rock.  I see the notation about PaintCare on the “where does it go app” but it must be fairly recent.  The people at the dump certainly don’t inform you when they refuse your latex paint as hazardous waste.  Just another reason to love McLendon’s.  Thanks again!

        • zark00 June 30, 2021 (4:35 pm)

          You didn’t miss anything, it wouldn’t have helped you at all in disposing of the paint you ‘inherited’.  The only paint they accept at Paintcare is paint that purchased with the additional Paintcare disposal fee at the time you bought it. Paint also has to have it’s original label, intact, and can’t be old, as in, no rust on the can at all, no tears in the label, no lid that doesn’t close all the way, etc. etc.It’s a complete bs program that does next to nothing for anyone needing to dispose of paint that’s not less than a year old and purchased at a  premium specifically so it will be accepted at PaintCare. 

          NOT ACCEPTED

          The following are non-PaintCare products and are not included in the program. When purchased, the PaintCare fee is not applied. They are not accepted at PaintCare’s participating drop-off sites.

          • Paint thinners, mineral spirits, solvents
          • Aerosol paints (spray cans)
          • Auto and marine paints
          • Art and craft paints
          • Caulking compounds, epoxies, glues, adhesives
          • Paint additives, colorants, tints, resins
          • Wood preservatives (containing pesticides)
          • Roof patch and repair
          • Asphalt, tar and bitumen-based products
          • 2-component coatings
          • Deck cleaners
          • Traffic and road marking paints
          • Industrial Maintenance (IM) coatings
          • Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) (shop application) paints and finishes
          • Containers that are leaking or empty, and containers without the original printed manufacturer’s label are not accepted at retail drop-off sites
    • WSeapaint guy June 29, 2021 (6:23 pm)


  • Sunflower June 29, 2021 (6:38 pm)

    Sad to see this. So discouraging.

  • Creekside June 29, 2021 (7:03 pm)

    This is so sad! I live along the creek near Barton and this spring I saw a large Beaver, an owl and two duck families in the creek along with lots of other birds and small wildlife . The beaver has the creek nicely dammed up near my apartment and his whole pond is white colored now! I hope he is ok.

  • Joan June 29, 2021 (9:13 pm)

    That really stinks. Salmon habitat and more. How about posting free leftover paint on Craigslist or other giveaway sites? People are so lazy and thoughtless. How would they feel if someone dumped paint in their house?

  • MagPie June 29, 2021 (9:39 pm)

    Ahh! I wondered when I walked my dog yesterday what that discoloration was. How sad, I follow a family of mother and father and ducklings that frequent the creek and love all the wildlife it brings to my little apartment area! Fortunately mama and ducklings found somewhere else to cool off yesterday.

  • Eric June 30, 2021 (5:01 pm)

    For those of you thinking this was intentional, my suspicion is that this was a caused by a wash water release, not a dump of pure paint.  Someone painting and washing out brushes and rollers likely thought a drain in the area goes to the sewer rather than being a stormwater drain which flows to the creek.  Not a great excuse but if your like me and want to have a reason to assume the best in people here you go.

  • Anna July 1, 2021 (11:42 am)

    Perhaps the man-hole in question needs a “drains to stream” stencil?  

  • OneTimeCharley July 2, 2021 (6:11 pm)

    When I have small amounts of paint to dispose of, and I don’t want to wait for it to fully dry (the kitty litter helps it dry, but isn’t in itself necessarily required), I use formed-paper egg packages with shredded paper in the bottom. I use the lid (the type with no holes) with a bed of shredded paper in the bottom as a place to pour off small amounts of paint. I let it dry overnight or a day or two, then I pull the hardened, paint covered shredded paper out and put it into my garbage. I then repeat the process until all the paint is gone, then the packaging itself is discarded similarly. The fully dry and empty paint can also goes into the garbage. Hope my method helps someone out there.

  • Laurena July 18, 2021 (1:55 pm)

    As it turns out this was sediment runoff from losing almost 35 in of glacial compacted ice from the so-called heat Dome we were experiencing

Sorry, comment time is over.