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Feature Story

Boeing employee Donna Peters

Boeing Photo

Boeing employee Tina Marie took part in Duwamish Alive, a volunteer activity to help clean up the Lower Duwamish Waterway in Seattle.

Pitching in along the Duwamish

Jim Russell, an Associate Technical Fellow with Boeing Research & Technology, recently went kayaking in the Lower Duwamish Waterway, the heart of Seattle’s manufacturing corridor.

But he didn't do it solely just to get some exercise. He was among the Boeing employees who joined more than 400 other community volunteers on Oct. 9, to help cleanup and restore the Lower Duwamish.

“I work in a building next to the Duwamish, so I think it’s right that I help clean up the neighborhood where I work every day,” Russell said. Among the trash he pulled out of the waterway while kayaking was a 100-yard-long piece of yellow plastic tape that had barnacles attached.

“We’re all part of the problem and critical to finding a solution to cleaning up the Duwamish.”

The semi-annual event, called Duwamish Alive, focused on cleaning up 11 sites along a five-mile stretch of water running through an industrial area in South Seattle. Volunteers picked up litter, weeded, spread mulch, and planted native species, as well as loaded into canoes and kayaks in search of trash.

“We’re all part of the problem and critical to finding a solution to cleaning up the Duwamish,” said Tina Marie, a Boeing Commercial Airplanes Propulsion Systems quality specialist who used to work in a building along the Duwamish.

The event was sponsored by the Duwamish Alive Coalition, which is a partnership of non-profit organizations, community groups, local businesses and government agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This week, the EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology released a list of options for cleaning up contaminants in the Lower Duwamish Waterway. This list, referred to as the Feasibility Study, marks an important step forward in determining the best way for cleaning up the waterway, which in 2001 was listed as a Superfund site by the EPA.

The Duwamish was created in the early 1900s when a 9.3-mile stretch of river in south Seattle was straightened, dredged and transformed into a 5.3-mile navigational channel with deep-water port facilities. Boeing began operations along the Duwamish in 1936.

The Feasibility Study is a technical report, based on scientific studies, that proposes alternatives for cleaning up PCBs and other contaminants at the Superfund site. It was developed by the Lower Duwamish Waterway Group (LDWG), a government-business partnership that includes the City of Seattle, the Port of Seattle, King County, Wash., and Boeing.

The study included collecting more than 4,500 sediment, soil and water samples over the past 10 years, and analyzing more than 300,000 records of historical chemical use by industries along the corridor.

The EPA and and the Washington Department of Ecology believe the 11 options stated in the report are the right alternatives. They range from varying degrees of removing the most contaminated sediments through dredging; capping some sediment under clean layers of new sediment; and monitoring the natural systems at work in the waterway to help reduce exposure to contamination.

The final decision on how to proceed will be decided by the EPA and the Department of Ecology, but they’re asking the general public, communities and businesses in the Duwamish Corridor to help select a protective and cost-effective cleanup plan.

There are multiple ways to voice your opinions. Help keep this process moving along by learning the facts and expressing your thoughts.

To learn more, visit the EPA's Lower Duwamish Waterway website. Or visit the website of the LDWG.

To voice your opinions, submit your comments via e-mail to the EPA by Dec. 23. Or attend an EPA public meeting on this topic. Meetings are set for Dec. 7 at Concord Elementary School in at 723 S. Concord St. in Seattle and Dec. 9 at South Seattle Community College, 6000 16th Ave. SW in Seattle.

Public input will be used by the EPA and Ecology to decide which cleanup option to propose in 2012. EPA’s final cleanup plan is expected in 2013.