Digging Deep

Boeing leads restoration of Seattle's Duwamish Waterway

May 20, 2015 in Our Environment

The sediment around Boeing's Plant 2 site in Seattle has a century's worth of stories to tell. The story it tells now is one of restoration.

Much in the same way as Boeing mobilized to support World War II, the company has now met the challenge of removing legacy contamination and constructing valuable wildlife habitat on the Lower Duwamish Waterway. Over the last three years, Boeing completed a comprehensive cleanup of the 1-mile span of the waterway next to Plant 2.

From divers to dredge equipment, this effort involved removing 265,000 cubic yards of sediment from the waterway and shoreline - enough to fill 4,000 railcars - and replenishing the waterway bed with clean sand.

Excavated sediment was transported by barge to a waterway facility, where it was packaged and loaded onto railcars and transported to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved landfill. All of this in-water work happened around-the-clock during construction windows, when juvenile salmon were not migrating.

"Of the 38,000 people who live in south Seattle, many are in close proximity to our cleanup," said Brian Anderson, Boeing Duwamish cleanup project manager. "It took a significant effort on our part to coordinate the project with their lives."

"Boeing really listened to what the community wanted and actually implemented a more stringent cleanup than possibly could have been required," said Bill Pease, a resident of the nearby South Park community. "We're pretty excited that the cleanup was done with a lot of care and with a lot of integrity."

Boeing's cleanup was the largest of the early cleanup actions of the Lower Duwamish Waterway Group, a partnership among the City of Seattle, King County, Port of Seattle and Boeing. Collectively, these cleanups reduced polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) risk in the waterway sediment by about 50 percent - halfway to the PCB sediment cleanup goal set by the U.S. EPA for this Superfund site.

"The EPA appreciates the efforts of Boeing to not only remediate but restore this stretch of the waterway to as close to its original form as possible," said Kate Kelly, director of the Office of Air, Waste and Toxics at the EPA's Seattle office.

This comprehensive cleanup demonstrates Boeing's commitment to build a better planet by restoring places affected by past manufacturing practices to support the well-being of the community.

"We did this cleanup because we knew we could make a difference in the waterway and community," said Steve Tochko, Boeing remediation manager. "Now that the U.S. EPA has released its final cleanup decision, we are working with others on studies to support the design of a remedy for the rest of the waterway."

Many efforts are underway to prevent pollution from entering the waterway throughout the region. For example, Boeing constructed multiple state-of-the-art stormwater treatment systems to help improve water quality.

Boeing also made the Duwamish Waterway a better place for salmon. Demolition of the old B-17 facility freed up the space needed to restore 1-mile (1.6 kilometers) of shoreline and create the largest habitat restoration project in the Duwamish.

The team carved out intertidal wetlands and brought in piles of woody debris and 170,000 native plants to provide food and refuge for fish and wildlife, improving Puget Sound salmon runs.

"This is proof that habitat can be created in an industrial environment and we expect it will improve the quality of life for fish and wildlife on the Duwamish," said Anderson. "The vision is that there will be an opportunity for co-existence among business, wildlife and community along the waterway."