The Latest: EPA released final cleanup order for Duwamish River

A million cubic yards of toxic sludge will be dredged from Seattle’s only river.

  • Dredging on the Duwamish River.

    Environmental Protection Agency

For more than a century, Seattle and its industries used the Duwamish River as a waste dump, rendering its once-bountiful seafood too toxic to eat. An upcoming Superfund cleanup will leave the river far cleaner than it is now, but regulators say Duwamish fish will always pose some risk to those who eat them — often members of poor or immigrant communities near the filthy waterway (“River of No Return,” HCN, 7/1/14).


On Dec. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final cleanup order, which will cost polluters $342 million. Nearly 1 million cubic yards of toxic sludge must be dredged from the river, a substantial increase over the draft plan. But even as old pollution is removed, Seattle’s urban and industrial storm drains still send untreated runoff into the river, and the prognosis for fish remains mixed. “This is an urban river,” EPA District 10 administrator Dennis McLerran said. “It will not be a place where unlimited amounts of fish will be able to be consumed.” 

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