Environmentalists sue Boeing over Duwamish River contamination

A new lawsuit says Boeing is poisoning the Duwamish River by pumping out pollution that is thousands of times above the legal limit. (Photo: KOMO News)

TUKWILA, Wash. - A new lawsuit says Boeing is poisoning the Duwamish River by pumping out pollution that is thousands of times above the legal limit.

The focus of the concern is the Military Delivery Center on East Marginal Way S in Tukwila. Two environmental groups said the plant is a hotbed for highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which flow out as stormwater runoff and then enter the food chain.

“Boeing just hasn't done what is needed to stop that pollution from getting into the Duwamish River,” said Katelyn Kinn, a staff attorney with Puget Soundkeeper.

Puget Soundkeeper has joined with Waste Action Project to sue Boeing on grounds that it is violating the Clean Water Act.

Tests of the Duwamish Waterway show dangerously high levels of cancer-causing PCBs. The lawsuit says that pollution is contaminating the fish that orcas feed on.

“Unfortunately when a mother orca nurses her calf, she is offloading a lot of the PCBs to that calf and that's one of the reasons for calf mortality," Kinn said.

Although PCBs are banned and have been for years, the state Department of Ecology found that the Boeing site continues to leach the toxins into the river through stormwater runoff.

Over the years, Boeing has taken steps to remove the pollutants but environmentalists said much more needs to be done.

“It seems like half measures,” Kinn said. “It's not enough. It's not what the community deserves."

Boeing released a statement regarding the lawsuit:

Boeing has done extensive work along the Lower Duwamish Waterway, including putting in stormwater treatment systems at North Boeing Field, Plant 2, and South Park sites. At the Military Delivery Center, Boeing has implemented projects to remove older common construction materials from buildings and other materials such as caulking from the flightline that historically contained PCBs. Boeing is currently implementing another project to remove caulk from the remaining places on the flightline at the Military Delivery Center where caulk with PCBs remains.

As an additional protective measure, and to resolve its issues with Ecology, Boeing plans to implement a stormwater treatment system (that includes proven stormwater filtration technology) at the Military Delivery Center to address the very low levels of PCBs, as requested by Ecology.

In sum, Boeing has demonstrated its commitment to improving the health of the Lower Duwamish Waterway by investing in cleanup activities, stormwater treatment, and habitat restoration for fish and wildlife.

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