Illustration of a meandering river that runs vertically downward and depicts the different aspects of source control, which are: Working from upstream to downstream, investigate sources of contamination, control and reduce sources, cleanup and prevent recontamination and while doing these things, simultaneously, monitor water quality.
What is source control?
“Source control” is Ecology’s process of finding sources of contamination, characterizing them, then taking actions to stop or reduce them before they reach the Lower Duwamish Waterway. This process includes a variety of actions such as permitting, inspections, sampling, upland site cleanup, and education.
We’re investigating over 20,000 acres of industrial land in the neighborhoods around the waterway for potential sources of pollution!
Ecology leads the interagency Source Control Work Group. Much coordination is needed between agencies to control sources of pollution within the twenty-four source control areas. This group of regulatory professionals meets quarterly to share information, discuss strategy, develop action plans, implement source control measures, and track progress.
Source Control Work Group members:
- Ecology: Lead for source control at properties that discharge directly to the waterway, as well as at upland contaminated properties.
- City of Seattle: Lead for source control within their storm drain system.
- King County: Lead for source control for discharges to wastewater or combined wastewater and stormwater systems.
- EPA: Provides technical assistance, source control coordination with EPA sediment investigation and cleanup activities.
How does Ecology find and control sources of pollution?
Part of our role in controlling sources of pollution into the river involves identifying contaminated areas on land and eliminating the source so contaminants stop reaching the waterway. To do this, Ecology is addressing source control in twenty-four upland areas, grouped into upper, middle, and lower reaches.
To ensure contamination from an upstream site doesn’t re-contaminate sites further downstream, we’re taking an upstream-to-downstream approach to upland site cleanup.
Our source control work includes two areas of focus, land-based cleanup and water quality discharge management.
Land-based (upland) cleanup might look like:
- Establishing legal agreements with the parties responsible for contamination to investigate and pay for cleanup.
- The investigation may consist of boring holes and the installation of wells at sites to collect soil and groundwater samples that then are analyzed for contaminants.
- Once the investigation is finished a study is conducted on ways to remove the contamination from the ground or water.
- After the study is finished, Ecology will determine the best way to conduct a cleanup of the identified pollutants found during the investigation.
- Ecology will enter into a second legal agreement with the liable party to conduct the cleanup that Ecology selected.
- Monitoring the sites to ensure cleanup activities were successful.
Water quality monitoring activities might look like:
- Issuing permits to limit the discharge of pollutants and meet Federal and State water quality regulations.
- Inspecting industrial operations/businesses that have the potential to contribute pollutants to stormwater.
- Requiring structural controls, such as enhanced stormwater treatment systems, to protect stormwater and surface waters.
- Coordinating with other public agencies to protect surface waters in the event of a spill incident.
- Providing technical assistance for implementing stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP), sample collection and others actions designed to prevent impacts on stormwater and surface water quality.
- In partnership with other regulatory entities, coordinating special studies to identify sources of contaminants. For example, installing “sediment traps” inside storm drains to trace contaminants and their sources through the existing stormwater system. So far, we have twenty-one permanent sediment traps in drains around the Duwamish to monitor conditions as they change! Additional traps are installed as-needed.
What land-based contaminated sites are we working to clean up?
Part of our source control work includes cleaning up specific land-based sites along the waterway. Explore the map below to learn more about each cleanup site currently in-progress.
Timeline for source control
Cleaning up the Lower Duwamish Waterway is a massive undertaking and will take time! We are working diligently to investigate sources of contamination from drainage area around the waterway, establish legal agreements with responsible parties, develop and implement cleanup plans, and conduct other source control activities. Source control will continue well into the future, even after the EPA completes their in-water cleanup to ensure new and previous sources of contamination remain eliminated.
The below timeline shows target milestones for Ecology’s source control work and the EPA’s in-water cleanup. The extent of contamination and scale of necessary source control is still actively being investigated, so the below milestones are subject to change.
What can I do?
One of the best things you can do as a community member to help protect the Duwamish River is to report problems that are – or could be – causing pollution. Report any spills you see to the Department of Ecology’s Environmental Reporting Tracking System (ERTS). Ecology will either take action themselves or pass the information on to a local agency like the City of Seattle. The types of things to report include spilled oil or other hazardous materials, illegal dumping, polluted water which might look oily or murky, or if you see anyone emptying containers into or near a river, into street drains, or even just on the ground. Please call Ecology’s Northwest Region’s ERTS number at 206-594-0000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seattle’s Surface Water Pollution Report line is 206-684-7587.
- Don’t sweep or hose soil or debris into the street. Instead, pick it up and put it in the trash or yard waste bin.
- Don’t over-use pesticide and fertilizer on your landscape. Plants won’t use all of the chemicals applied if you use too much of them and the excess will find its way into stormwater and eventually into the river.
- Fix vehicle leaks so they don’t drip motor oil, antifreeze, fuel, and other liquids onto the ground which could be washed off and into the storm drains when it rains.
- Don’t wash your car on the paved street. Like pesticides and fertilizers, soap used to wash your car will flow into a storm drain and is harmful to the river and organisms that live in it. Use a commercial car wash whenever possible because they are designed to capture and treat the soapy water.
Remember that most stormwater that goes into our street drains in the Duwamish Valley ends up in the river. The easiest way to prevent chemicals like paints, oils, and pesticides from getting into the stormwater, and eventually the river, is to store chemicals in secure covered places. Don’t leave those types of containers out in your yard. Store them in a shed or garage.
When you no longer need the chemicals, don’t pour them out onto the ground or into the sidewalk – take them to the local household hazardous waste collection facility in South Seattle.
Communities can protect our waterways by adding more soft surfaces, like compost and native plants, to our neighborhoods. They will allow the rain to soak into the soil and be taken up by plants so there’s less stormwater running off the land and ending up in the river. Also, when stormwater runs through vegetation and soils, pollutants are often removed from the water.
Look out for opportunities to get involved like removing litter and invasive plants, planting native vegetation, or attending community events to learn more about protecting our environment. Here are some useful resources to get you started:
The following is an accessible description of the above timeline. From 2019 through 2024, Ecology will preform source control actions along the upper section of the Lower Duwamish River, once the sources are sufficiently controlled, the EPA will begin in water cleanup which will last until approximately 2028.
In 2024, Ecology will move onto source control efforts in the middle section of the Lower Duwamish waterway, which will last until approximately 2028, once sources of contamination are sufficiently controlled, the EPA will begin in-water cleanup on the middle section of the river which will last until approximately 2031.
In 2027, the Ecology will focus its source control effort on the lower section of the Lower Duwamish Waterway. This will last until approximately 2031. Once the sources of contamination in this section are sufficiently controlled, the EPA will begin in-water cleanup which is likely to last beyond 2032.