The Duwamish River is a lifeline for the Seattle area. As the lone river flowing through the city, the Duwamish serves as a huge resource for the community. Unfortunately, the river has historically been used as a dumping grounds for the city's industry and commerce. Appointed an EPA superfund site in 2001, the Duwamish carries a swath of contaminants, including PCBs, Mercury, and Phalites, accumulated over years of pollution. It continues to be used for storm water runoff for much of the city.
I had the chance to join a tour of the river sponsored by Earth Ministry, a non-profit organization engaging the Christian community in environmental stewardship. This faith-based, ecojustice tour was designed to provide an opportunity for members of faith to join together to take account for the devastation of the river's ecosystem, as well as provide a time to pray for the reclamation of the river and affected communities. The event was co-sponsored by the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, the pioneering citizen-action group committed to the cleanup of the river.
The issues surrounding the Duwamish River cleanup all tie into sustainability. The environmental, economic, and social impacts of the destruction of the river are immense and complex. The pollution has produced health problems in nearby neighborhoods like Georgetown and South Park, and has nearly destroyed a once-thriving ecosystem and fishery. An area with special significance to the native Duwamish tribe, the river has been altered and exploited for commercial enterprise with little concern for the social and environmental impacts incurred.
Luckily, there are signs of progress. The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition has done amazing work cleaning up the river, building parks, and restoring the waterway and community. Their vision of the restoration project includes:
- increasing living wage jobs through the impending cleanup work via partnerships with local businesses, schools, governments, and training programs;
- Advance a new ‘green’ economy with living-wage jobs and economic development through the proposed Duwamish cleanup and restoration;
- Remove toxic chemicals from the Duwamish River and ensure a risk-free place to fish and play;
- reducing ongoing sources of pollution through source control, including green infrastructure, natural drainage and 'green streets;'
- Increase equitable housing for a wide spectrum of incomes;
- Create and steward thriving wildlife habitat restoration sites;
- Enhance healthy recreation and eco-tourism opportunities;
- Plan with communities for sustainable, thriving, vibrant riverfront neighborhoods.
Ways to get involved:
- The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition is always looking for volunteers to help their cause.
- Be mindful of what you put down the drain. Many shampoos, gels, soaps, and cleaners contain toxic chemicals which wind up in the river. Reducing our use of harmful chemicals is an easy step to preserving the Duwamish and our environment.