FOLLOWUP: EPA sticks with plan to allow higher levels of a Duwamish River pollutant

(WSB photo, September)

Back in February, we reported on the EPA‘s plan to make a change in the Duwamish River cleanup plan, allowing higher levels of a particular pollutant, benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), a “carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (cPAH).” The higher levels would be allowed because a review process dating back to 2013 had determined the pollutant was less cancer-causing than previously believed. After a public comment period and further review, the EPA is finalizing what it originally proposed. Here’s the one-sheet explanation:

EPA spokesperson Bill Dunbar says, “Due to the reduced risk, EPA Region 10 has revised the allowable levels of cPAH at the Lower Duwamish Waterway. The higher levels will provide the same level of human health protection. The new levels are expected to reduce the areas where waterway sediments require Superfund cleanup by less than five percent. PCBs remain the main source of risk to people’s health from the site. People can be exposed to PCBs if they eat fish and shellfish that spend their lives in the river, or contact sediment during beach play, net-fishing, and clamming. cPAHs do not accumulate in fish but are found in clams. EPA estimates that since 2012, average levels of cPAHs and PCBs in Duwamish Waterway sediments have been reduced by half as a result of early cleanup actions, control of pollution sources, and burial by cleaner sediments from upstream. Future cleanup to reduce PCBs will also reduce cPAHs.”

This change is part of what led the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition to organize a rally for the river just two weeks ago. DRCC executive director Paulina López tells WSB that while the EPA’s decision is troubling, there’s some hope: “Unfortunately, the change EPA approved means that our communities will be exposed to higher levels of carcinogenic PAHs — in our river sediments, and in our fish and shellfish. We do not believe that this is health protective, especially for an Environmental Justice community with multiple, cumulative exposures. We are encouraged, however, that the impact of EPA’s change will be minimized as a result of our City, County and Port’s stated commitment to stay the course and clean up all of the cPAHs as originally ordered by the 2014 cleanup decision. DRCC will still call on our local governments to stand by this commitment and we look forward to working with them to secure EPA’s cooperation and support. to protect our communities, our fishers, our habitat. “

11 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: EPA sticks with plan to allow higher levels of a Duwamish River pollutant"

  • flimflam October 8, 2021 (6:09 pm)

    How lovely. 

  • Joan October 8, 2021 (8:10 pm)

    I expected a better EPA when the administration changed hands. Was there not a house cleaning of the agency? The name should be changed to Anti environmental agency.

  • anonyme October 9, 2021 (6:18 am)

    There is no acceptable level of carcinogenic (or other) chemicals in our waterways.  Nor should the only consideration be for humans or for things that humans eat.  Our species has done enough to trash this planet and make it uninhabitable for all living things.  Greed and profit are killing us all.  Joan nailed it – the EPA is working against its own stated purpose and needs a serious overhaul.

  • VN October 9, 2021 (7:32 am)

    This is unacceptable on so many levels.  As a community member, I want to know how I can help to continue to push for a reversal of this decision.  

  • TrustTheExperts October 9, 2021 (8:41 am)

    The EPA are the Experts, we should trust their science. If they say the pollutants are safe then who are you to say otherwise? Are you an environmental expert? 

    • Hmmm October 9, 2021 (1:59 pm)

      The head of the EPA is apppinted by the president. I certainly did not trust the epa under Trump. But there is a new head of epa under Biden. So not sure what’s going on there. I think the epa is just weak. 

      • D October 10, 2021 (8:36 am)

        You shouldn’t question the science, it’s settled.  The Biden Administration knows and does what’s best. At least you don’t have to read any mean tweets from the White House.

      • TrustTheExperts October 10, 2021 (9:06 am)

        I don’t understand why you have to make it political, I’m talking about Science and Experts, we aren’t allowed to refute those

    • Pessoa October 10, 2021 (10:33 am)

      I suspect you are being tongue in cheek, but in the words of the great American physicist; Richard Feynman, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”  

  • Greenleader October 9, 2021 (9:35 am)

    Not great news for the change in amounts allowed. The Duwamish is a very sick and polluted river, in need of our attention and vigilance. Glad to hear that our local government will stay the course. So many people fish near the lower bridge. Hope signs are posted in many languages, to alert the people that are fishing, of the dangers. Thanks for the update WSB.

  • VN October 9, 2021 (11:05 am)

    The EPA is not saying these pollutants are safe.  They say the harm will be reduced but these chemicals are known carcinogenic and they will persist in the banks and  in the river.  They affect not only people but animals and marine life.  This is a social equity issue for the neighborhood already suffering from air pollution but these chemicals can make their way into the street, gardens etc.  My husband is an environmental expert and quite familiar with these toxins.

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