Puget Sound getting cleaner, one day at a time

06:44 PM PDT on Wednesday, August 13, 2003


SEATTLE – It doesn't happen very often that major companies admit to having caused an environmental disaster and then agree to pay for cleanup. But that is exactly what's happening on Seattle's Harbor Island.

With each piling they pull, the Puget Sound gets a little cleaner. It’s the lethal legacy left behind by the companies that built the Seattle shipping industry – Pacific Sound, Todd and Lockheed shipyards.

Every day, about 200 pilings are removed.
But these thousands of pilings that supported acres of piers and are coated with toxic creosote are just part of the problem.

Years ago, divers ventured under the old piers and down into the chemical soup below. The sea life below, including juvenile salmon, are all exposed to dangerous industrial poisons.

"They've actually been studied in this waterway and shown to have decreased growth and survival rates,” said Randy Carman, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Marine life in the Duwamish River has been exposed to toxic chemicals for years.
Crews will remove 30,000 dumptruck loads of the contaminated soil from two of the three contaminated sites. Acres more will be capped under tons of clean soil.

But they just keep finding more and more of the toxic pilings.

"We expect that we're going to be pulling between 7,000 and 9,000 piles out. We’re finding more than we expected,” said Linda Priddy, EPA site manager.

That's a lot of pilings, but crews aren’t messing around. They are yanking them out at an average of 200 per day, because they have a deadline to meet.

The companies that caused the disaster have agreed to clean up the mess.
The date of February 15 was part of a landmark agreement among the companies and several agencies.

This is an EPA Superfund site that is largely funded by the actual polluters. They agreed to do it and hired the contractors to get it done.

To speed things up, the contractors were offered extra money if they could beat the deadline. The sooner they do, say biologists, the sooner the Duwamish and Puget Sound can begin to heal.

Not only will crews clean up the water and soil, they will remove hundreds of yards of piers and replace them with open beaches covered in native plants.


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