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Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group 

Description

The Duwamish River has been treated as a dumping ground – green Seattle's "dirty little secret" – for more than 100 years. The river was listed as a federal 'Superfund' site in 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of the most toxic hazardous waste sites in the nation. Studies have shown that PCBs, mercury, arsenic and other toxins threaten not just the river's fish and wildlife, but also people who depend upon the river for their livelihood or their food.

DRCC/TAG works to ensure that the cleanup of the river is done right and local communities have a say in the process. As Seattle's only river, and one of Puget Sound's critical industrial centers, the challenge is to implement a cleanup that supports and balances the human, economic and environmental systems that sustain our region. 

The river flows through some of Seattle's poorest communities, comprised of immigrant families, low-income residents and workers, and others marginalized by a city experiencing rapid gentrification. Toxins in the river affect the health and livelihood of fishermen, tribal members, residents, riverside workers, and businesses that rely on the health of the river and its surrounding communities.

Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/TAG works to ensure that the Duwamish River Superfund cleanup restores environmental health and protects the fishers and families who use the river, and also reflects the priorities, values and will of the people who live and work in the region. DRCC/TAG’s programs include guided river tours, educational forums, habitat-restoration events, the annual river festival, environmental justice youth programs, and neighborhood activities designed to link people to the river and empower them to take ownership of the river and the cleanup decisions that affect its future.

DRCC/TAG serves as EPA's Community Advisory Group for the Superfund cleanup of the Duwamish River, and provides Technical Advisors to the community to help them understand and respond to proposed cleanup studies and plans. DRCC/TAG worked with over 500 community members in five languages to develop the Duwamish Valley Vision in 2009, and currently manages the Duwamish Valley Community Health Initiative, designed to ensure that the river cleanup and related environmental improvements protect the health of all the river's communities and promote environmental justice and equity.

It is our vision that South Seattle residents will be able to crab in the river without risks to their family's health, that endangered salmon will be able to recover without PCBs or other toxic body burdens, and that the banks of the Duwamish River will be a welcoming and risk-free place for our children and their children to wade, fish and play.

Mission Statement
DRCC/TAG was formed in by an alliance of community, tribal, environmental and small business groups affected by ongoing pollution and cleanup plans for the Duwamish River. Our mission is to ensure a Duwamish River cleanup that is accepted by and benefits the community and is protective of fish, wildlife and human health.
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Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group
210 South Hudson Street 
Seattle 
WA
98134 
(206) 954-0218 

James Rasmussen 
Coalition Coordinator 

Programs

Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group Programs

Education and Outreach
Outreach and education to provide multi-lingual information to the public about Duwamish River pollution, health and cleanup issues, including educational presentations to community, youth, business, church, academic, and other organizations; educational boat, kayak and walking tours of the river; Community Fact Sheets with clear and easy-to-understand information about cleanup studies and plans; monthly E-Newsletters; and a web site and Facebook page to provide up-to-date and timely information about cleanup events, activities and developments that affect the river's stakeholders and impacted communities. 

Public Involvement
We actively involve the community in cleanup decisions affecting the river and its surrounding neighborhoods, including designing and organizing multi-lingual and culturally relevant public meetings accessible to all impacted communities; coordinating community responses to proposed cleanup plans and actions; and providing the community with direct access to technical and policy experts, data and information. In 2013, we organized the community to submit more than 2,300 comments in 10 languages on EPA's proposed cleanup plan for the Duwamish River, demonstrating overwhelming public support for an environmentally strong and health-protective river cleanup. As EPA's designated Community Advisory Group, we have negotiated an Enhanced Public Participation agreement with EPA and the Department of Ecology, giving the community unprecedented access to the decision-making process. DRCC/TAG also secures state Public Participation Grants for the cleanup site, in order to provide public involvement education and programming; food, child care, language interpretation, and transportation for public meetings; and community-based, hands-on engagement activities, such as the annual Duwamish River Festival and Duwamish Alive! volunteer habitat restoration events.

Advocacy
DRCC/TAG represents the interests of the community on issues related to the river cleanup, environmental health and justice, and public access to information. In 2008–09, DRCC/TAG worked with the community to develop a comprehensive "Duwamish Vision," articulating the diverse river stakeholders' vision for the future of the Duwamish Valley. The Vision outlines the public's hopes, dreams, fears and concerns as the complex cleanup progresses and includes calls for improvements to affordable housing, transportation, habitat, family-wage jobs, and community amenities. The Vision continues to aid DRCC/TAG in ensuring that the cleanup will be a vehicle and catalyst for building healthy, sustainable, and equitable river communities. In 2012–13, DRCC/TAG completed a report on the health status of the river's neighborhoods, and partnered with the UW School of Public Health to conduct a Health Impact Assessment of EPA's proposed cleanup plan, resulting in recommendations to promote health equity for the river's local residents, Tribes, fishing families, and workers.

Recent Successes and Current Challenges

DRCC/TAG has improved cleanup actions on the river by (1) substantially increasing the size and scope of the first Early Action cleanup, and preventing disposal of its contaminated sediments into Puget Sound; (2) incorporating habitat restoration and public access into the second Early Action cleanup; and (3) upgrading the third Early Action cleanup plan to meet unrestricted land-use and residential health standards, expanding the size of the cleanup to eliminate risks in the affected neighborhood, and creating salmon habitat and public access at an abandoned industrial site. In 2013, we provided technical assistance and public involvement services to the community during EPA's public comment period on the proposed riverside cleanup plan, resulting in over 2,300 comments in 10 languages demonstrating overwhelming public support for a stronger, more comprehensive and health-protective river cleanup. Several of our outreach tools and products have been recognized for their excellence: The Duwamish River Vision received the national Clearwater Award and our interpretive Green Duwamish Watershed Map received the Outstanding Exhibit award from the Association of King County Historical Organizations; in addition, DRCC/TAG's founding director was awarded King County's prestigious Green Globe Award for Environmental Activism.

In 2014, DRCC/TAG is ramping up our "River For All"  campaign to secure support from EPA and our local elected officials for an environmentally sound and health protective river cleanup, and to engage the greater Seattle area in talking action to protect Seattle's only river. EPA's final cleanup decision is expected by the end of 2014.

Evaluation

The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC) works to ensure a Duwamish River cleanup supports and balances the human, economic, and environmental systems that sustain our region. The DRCC reflects a broad coalition of organizations and stakeholders, and is a strong alliance of environmental, community, tribal, and small business organizations serving as the Community Advisory Group to the EPA on the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site.

Proven Success
DRCC negotiated an “enhanced” public involvement model with the EPA and local agencies giving the community a seat at the table during the cleanup planning and design process. This has enabled fully transparent and informed community involvement in the final river cleanup decision (Federal law does not require EPA to provide any opportunities for public involvement between the time a Superfund site is listed and the time EPA releases its proposed cleanup plan).

They have had great success in involving under-represented communities in these public meetings, and have secured bilingual and culturally-competent structures for opportunities to make public comments. DRCC continues to make the EPA and regulatory agencies accountable in their cleanup work.

Accessibility and Cultural Competency
They are very intentional about not substituting DRCC staff for individual, community-based leadership. The most directly impacted Duwamish River communities are low-income neighborhoods with minority and non-English speaking populations. In recognition of a growing multi-lingual population in the areas around the Duwamish, DRCC provides multi-lingual information and programs.

DRCC works to take complicated technical reports and summarize them into easily understood language, so that the average resident can be informed and take an active part in the process. Through their work, they have helped grow the capacity within the neighborhoods they have involved, helping them better advocate for themselves. The feasibility study for the Duwamish River clean-up is nearing completion. DRCC is currently advocating alongside community members for local training programs- insisting that the jobs and economic stimulus resulting from the clean-up should be local.

Use of Best Practices
They have leveraged the Superfund cleanup as an opportunity to lead the community in developing a comprehensive plan, Duwamish Valley Vision Project, which calls for a holistic approach to cleaning up the Duwamish River valley. This plan will be used to advise and guide the EPA and other regulatory agencies on the final cleanup plans for the Duwamish River that is compatible with and supports the community's long-term goals for the river valley.

Grant History with The Seattle Foundation:

Grants Awarded through The Seattle Foundation Grantmaking Program:

DateAmountPurpose
3/10/2013 $12,000.00support general operating expenses.
3/10/2011 $10,000.00support general operating expenses.
12/10/2009 $20,000.00support general operating expenses.
6/21/2007 $20,000.00support general operating expenses of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition.

Financials

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