Since early 2021, our community partners have been concerned about proposed changes to the plan for the cleanup of the Duwamish River that was finalized in 2014 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their Record of Decision (ROD). As our partners work to understand the implications of the proposed changes, the UW SRP Community Engagement and Research Translation Cores have been providing technical support to help interpret the science underlying the proposed actions.
This summer, the UW SRP traveled to Kellogg, Idaho to visit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and community partners at the Bunker Hill Superfund Site. Community Engagement Manager BJ Cummings was accompanied by toxicologist Dr. Steve Gilbert from the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, and UW Communications Leadership Program intern Sukai Gaye. The team toured the epicenter of the Superfund site and several repositories along the Coeur d’Alene River where wastes from the site are stored.
Back in 2012, Cassie Cohen was working for Groundwork Portland when she noticed two problems with the planning process for cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund Site. First, some of the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) were dominating the narratives about the cleanup with intensive media and public relations campaigns. Second, no community group seemed to be taking the lead on organizing the disproportionately impacted communities living in proximity to the polluted river.
BJ Cummings and her 2020 book, The River That Made Seattle: A Human and Environmental History of the Duwamish, were awarded the Virginia Marie Folkins Award for outstanding historical publication by the Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO) in a virtual awards ceremony in May.
When UW SRP researchers found new evidence that environmental contamination from a former smelter may pose a threat to human health, they were careful to inform their agency partners in advance of publication. This advance notice allowed them a chance to coordinate the necessary risk communication before engaging with potentially affected populations.
On June 24th, the UW SRP and the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition hosted the second in a two-part series on Institutional Controls (ICs). Professor Cliff Villa of the University of New Mexico, Piper Peterson of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and James Rasmussen of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition discussed details of the EPA's IC Plan for fishers at the Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site and lessons it offers for communities working to protect fishers at other contaminated sites.
Recently the University of Washington Superfund Research Program helped develop an eLearning Module for health professionals titled “Pediatric Lead Exposure: Diagnosis, Management and Prevention” which can be taken for continuing education credit. The module was created in partnership with the Northwest Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units and the Panhandle Health District to raise awareness about risks associated with lead exposure and to promote lead medical surveillance in the Bunker Hill Superfund Site area, within Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene River Basin.