WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Adam Smith and Pramila Jayapal, and Senators Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell sent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan a letter regarding the cleanup of the East Waterway at the mouth of the Duwamish River in Washington State. The members voiced their support of the EPA’s decision to pause the release of its Proposed Plan for cleanup and strongly urged additional community engagement measures to address the harmful pollutants and contamination that have severe impacts on human and environmental health.
“The completion of a Proposed Plan, and ultimately the issuance of a Record of Decision, is an important step towards cleanup of the East Waterway. We strongly urge the EPA to set cleanup standards to the highest and most protective standards feasible. The Proposed Plan must also be developed with extensive community engagement, especially with frontline impacted communities,” the members wrote. “Further, we urge the EPA to include community input in the final Proposed Plan as those on the frontlines living in this area have a wealth of knowledge about what needs to be done. The community has expressed strong interest in working with you on the plan and we are available to facilitate those conversations if needed.”
A century of industrial and commercial activity surrounding the East Waterway has led to high levels of pollutants in the waterway, which has serious implications for the health of the ecosystems and communities in the surrounding area. The predominately low-income communities of color that live around the Duwamish River have been disproportionately burdened by the higher health risks that come along with this contamination. In the letter, the members urged the EPA to approach the cleanup as a matter of environmental justice and equity to adequately address the disparate impacts that this community faces.
Community members throughout the Duwamish River face a multitude of environmental and public health challenges, including some of the worst air quality in the Seattle region, disproportionate health impacts, and shorter lifespans than surrounding areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges.” The members concluded the letter, “We applaud your focus on environmental justice and equity. We stand ready to work with you to ensure these principles are applied as cleanup plans are developed and advanced for the East Waterway.”

A full copy of the letter can be found here.