The pollution of River Duwamish Essay

The pollution of River Duwamish is a very serious ecological problem that is affecting United States. It is therefore necessary for all environmental organs to come up with policies and measures aimed at conserving and protecting this River. River Duwamis is facing contamination because of human activities, which in turn, results to the pollution of the River. Some of the major pollutants of this River include the port of the city of Seattle, Lafarge industries, Boeing industries, and independent households. This pollution has negatively affected the aquatic and human lives in the region. For instance, this pollution has resulted to a decrease in the number of Salmon fish.

This is because the River Duwamish is the major breeding and rearing ground of the Salmon fish, and the chemical pollution that occurs in the river, has resulted to the depletion of oxygen, making it impossible for these fish to survive. Human beings are affected because they cannot consume fish from this river. Consumption of food substance that emanate from this river are polluted, hence it is a danger to the life of human beings. Hence, there is a need of initiating measures aimed at conserving and protecting the river from pollutants.

The Concept of Water Pollution:

Goel (7) begins his study by the definition of water pollution. He defines water pollution as negative changes in the quality of water bodies, making it harmful for use by any living organisms (Goel, 9). There are different types of water pollution. Some of these include nutrients, surface, oxygen depleting, ground water, microbiological and chemical water pollution. All these have a negative effect on marine animals, as well as on human beings who are using the polluted waters under consideration. For instance, one of the major effects of water pollution is that it leads to the death of marine animals. Crabs, seas gulls, dolphins, and other marine animals are always killed by contaminated water. Water pollution also has the capability of disrupting the natural food chain. Chemical pollutants like lead are always consumed by tiny sea animals. Later on, these tiny animals are consumed by fish, which in turn is consumed by human beings. This can lead to an aspect referred to as food poisoning.

Water pollution affects the entire world, and therefore, there is a need of coming up with a water resource policy, that can help in the reduction of water pollution. Furthermore, there is a suggestion and proof that water pollution is one of the leading causes of deaths in the world (Hauser-Davis, Reinaldo and Roberta, 117). United States is also greatly affected by water pollution. This is because a large percentage of the water bodies found in this country are polluted (Bennett, 4). In fact, Bennett (5) argues that 55% of all water bodies in United States are polluted. This is despite the efforts of Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Ecology in protecting and preserving its water bodies. However, Brausch, Kristin, Bryan, and Gary (22) cite a recent report by EPA, which explains that, 45% of rivers, 32% of estuarine and bays and 47% of lakes are polluted in the United States. One of the most polluted rivers in the United States is the Duwamish River that is found in Seattle. Seattle has become an important port city in United States, because of the fresh water corridor provided by the Duwamish River. However, this is under threat because of the physical and chemical contamination of the Duwamish River (Welch, 4). This has had an impact in contaminating food substances that originate from the river, and this includes all manner of fish.

The Duwamish River:

The source of River Duwamish is Washington, and it passes through Seattle, to the Mountains of Cascade. The port of Seattle acts as a major pathway to River Duwamish. Furthermore, this river is connected with the Green Duwamish River, which runs from Washington, and forms a 93 mile corridor. The lower 4.6 miles of the River is found in Seattle, and it runs up to the Mountains of Cascade (Cordell, Lucinda and K, 13). This region is an estuary, whereby the fresh water from the river and salt water from the sound are able to mix. Furthermore, water levels in this region normally fluctuate when a tide occurs, and when there is an increase of water levels in the river (Cordell, Lucinda and K, 28). The Duwamish River is important to the city of Seattle, mainly because it provides support to its port, and related industrial and shipping businesses. This river is also a recreational and fishing resource (Pavlou and W, 654). Living organisms such as trout and salmon normally use this river as their corridor for migration, and it is a breeding and rearing ground for a large number of wild animals, and fish organisms (Cordell, Lucinda and K, 31).

History of Pollution of Duwamish River:

River Duwamish is one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. The industrial history of this important River has played a role in explaining the reasons for the pollution of this river. Its high level of sediment concentration is still a major issue in various areas of its estuary. Due to pressure from environmental groups, there is a reduction in the contamination of this river by industries, leading to an improvement to its water quality, which is viewed as fair. However, this is not a success, because the bacterial concentrations that emanate from human and animal activities is able to surpass, the standards acceptable by the state and federal governments (Cordell, Lucinda and K, 33). This therefore means that River Duwamish is still polluted. Furthermore, a significant portion of the river, still remains on the list of the government as containing water bodies for Ammonia N (Brausch et al, 25). Ammonia N is one of the leading pollutants of water bodies, and it has the capability of killing all the living organisms that are found in waters that it has polluted. Furthermore, the shoreline habitat of river Duwamish is poor. This is because of overwater structures, little riparian vegetation, such as trees, and bulkheads. Despite this, the estuary is an important breeding ground for the Chinook Salmons (Brausch et al, 29).

To preserve this river, there is a need of involving every person, including institutions that are using it. This would help in efficient restoration of the quality of these waters, hence preserving and protecting the natural habitat of the Salmon fish, and other aquatic animals. Because of its long history of pollution, it is difficult for the government and other environmental experts to reduce the pollution of this river, without the support of other environmental and industrial stakeholders (Kayen and Walter, 31). This is mainly because the Duwamish River supports the economic life of the city of Seattle, and this includes the various industries found in this city. It is therefore prudent to involve these industries and concerned fellows in the implementation of any policy aimed at reducing the pollution of the Duwamish River (Theobald, 17).

Causes of Pollution at the Duwamish River and their Impacts:

The causes of pollution at the Duwamish River are both physical and chemical. Physical pollution of this river emanates from the dirt sediments, and garbage that find their way into the river, through the storm ways. These garbages are normally the left over’s, that people dispose off from their domestic homes. Other sediments emanate from the roof tops, or from industrial wastes. For instance, the City of Seattle is accused of being one of the leading causes of the pollution of the Duwamish River (Cordell, Lucinda and K, 21). This is because its employees are accused of inappropriately disposing off non-organic wastes, which normally find their ways into the river. Companies such as Lafarge are also accused of dumping chemical wastes into the river (Pulkkinen, 5). Chemical pollutants that are introduced into the river have an impact of depleting the percentage of oxygen into the river. This is dangerous because it has resulted to an increase in the deaths of aquatic animals such as trout and salmon fish. This also negatively affects the breeding grounds of these animals, because they need oxygen, for purposes of rearing their young ones. Chemical contamination of this river is also dangerous to the health of human beings (Goel, 27).

It is always unhealthy for human beings to use water that is chemically and physically polluted. Furthermore, it is also unhealthy for human beings to consume contaminated food substances that are removed from the river. Consumption of these food substances can lead to the emergence of cholera, or other water borne diseases. This includes fish. Furthermore, other chemical substances have caused turbidity in certain areas of the river, blocking light and disrupting the growth of plants. Majority of these chemical substances or products are toxic. Chemical substances that are discharged in the river, by industries, have played a role in altering the physical chemistry of this river. This includes its temperature, acidity, eutrophication, and its temperature. Eutrophication refers to an increase in the concentration of chemical substances in the ecosystem, to an extent that it affects the primary productive capability of organism in the eco-system (Pavlou and W, 658). Depending on the level of eutrophication, a negative environmental activity, such as oxygen depletion and reduction in the quality of water may occur. This would most definitely lead to a reduction in the population of fish, and aquatic animals.

There are two types of pollution present at the Duwamish River, i.e. organic and inorganic pollution (Cordell, Lucinda and K, 11). The Organic pollutants of the river includes, insecticides, detergents, drug pollution, food processing wastes, and industrial solvents which have leaked into the river, because of poor and improper storage. A good example is on the Lafarge Industry, which was under investigation for the leakage of its industrial solvents into the river. Lafarge is a cement maker, and from 2006 to 2014, investigators from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were investigating the company for unnecessary leakages into the river (Pulkkinen, 8). This was mainly polluted water, and water which was used for purposes of making cement. The company was prohibited from dumping these wastes into the river (Pulkkinen, 8). However, Lafarge Industries still dumped them, and EPA was able to find them liable. EPA fined the company approximately 300000 dollars for the violation of the Clean Water Act (Pulkkinen, 9). Inorganic pollutants of the Duwamish River includes, silt (sediment), ammonia, chemical wastes, and heavy metals. Silt normally emanates from construction sites, and from industries such as Lafarge. In fact, in the year 2009, the department of Ecology denoted that silt (sediment) is one of the major pollutants of the river (Pavlou and W, 657). The department of ecology denoted that construction sites, and companies such as Lafarge, played a great role, in introducing these sediments into the river. The best mitigating factor is to locate these industries to a location which is not near any river beds, or runways. However, this is not viable, because a company such as Lafarge requires too much water, to enable it carry out its activities. Removing them near water bodies may result to their collapse, hence loss of jobs, and revenue to the government.

Storm water runoff is one of the pathways that pollutants normally find their way into the river. These run ways are responsible for introducing heavy metals into the river. These heavy metals normally emanate from motor vehicles. They are discharged into the river, through storm water runoff. It is through this path, that grease, fertilizers and other agricultural, commercial and consumer wastes are discharged into the river, contributing to pollution (Goel, 19). Storm water normally picks up debris from roofs, roads and parking lots, while flowing to the urban waters. This is the reason why Pavlou and W (653) explains that there is a need of identifying storm water runways, and initiating measures of closing these runways, or collecting the residues that are contained in these runways. Through this approach, chances are high that the government and environmental officials will reduce the degree in which the Duwamish River is polluted. Through the existence of these runways, it is possible to assert that nearly everybody who resides the port city of Seattle is responsible for the pollution of the Duwamish River.

It is based on this fact, that their is a need of developing a policy, whereby the citizens off the city will be taxed, and the money collected should be used for purposes of maintaining the river (Theobald, 14). This would be an efficient method of involving the residents of the city, in environmental conservation measures. Furthermore, they will be careful, in the manner which they dispose of chemical and toxic wastes; this is because they are involved in the conservation and protection of the river.

It is not individual consumers who should bear too much responsibility for the pollution of the river. This is because large companies such as Boeing, Lafarge Industries, and the Port of Seattle play a great role in the pollution of this river. Public agency, such as the city of Seattle has also been identified as a major pollutant of the river (Kayen and Walter, 23). Another pathway of pollutants to the river is a combined sewer outfall. This is an area where the storm and sanitary sewers are combined, and it is possible for a heavy rainfall to overwhelm the capacity of this system. This results to the discharge of raw sewage and its sediments to the Duwamish River. Another important pathway of sediments and pollutants to the Duwamish River is through the groundwater runways. The flow of groundwater has the capability of moving pollutants towards the river. It is therefore important for environmental experts and agencies to identify and clean contaminated groundwater and soil. This is one of the major ways in which contaminated fertilizers normally find their way into the Duwamish River.

Efforts at Cleaning, Conserving and Protecting the River:

There are numerous steps and activities taken by the Department of Ecology and Environmental Protection Agency in cleaning up, and conserving the waterway. For instance, in the year 1988, EPA was able to investigate the sediments in the waterway, and they found out a variety of harmful toxic metals and chemical compounds. In the year 2001, EPA was able to conduct a research, on the contamination of the Duwamish River (Kayen and Walter, 33). Based on the results of the research, EPA was able to identify at least 5 and ¬Ĺ miles of River Duwamish as a federal Superfund site. A superfund site listed by EPA comprises of areas that are highly contaminated, and hence there is a need of cleaning them up. In the year 2002, the Department of Ecology was able to add the Duwamish River, to the list of the most hazardous sites (Pavlou and W, 659). During the same year, EPA and the Department of Ecology were able to divide their responsibilities in the maintenance of the site. EPA was responsible for investigating the factors responsible for contaminating the river, while the Department of Ecology had the responsibility of controlling the sources of pollutants, and cleaning up the river.

As of the year 2014, the federal government was able to set aside a whooping 342 million dollars, for purposes of cleaning up the river. The major aim of this program is to reduce the pollution of the river by 90%. The federal government estimates that this program would take approximately two decades (Welch, 9). The government was able to identify the leading pollutants of this river, and they are the Port of Seattle, the County of King, the City of Seattle, and Boeing Company. A large percentage of the money used for purposes of cleaning this river will come from these institutions or companies. This is because the government aims at making them responsible for the pollution that occurs at the Duwamish River (Pavlou and W, 660). Holding a company responsible for the social ills that affect the society would act as a deterrent, to other companies that may consider engaging in such kind of an activity.

The federal government hopes that by cleaning the river, the residents of Seattle will manage to access and eat more clean food. For purposes of achieving the objective of cleaning up the river, EPA will require that approximately 105 acres of the bottom of the river to be dug up, for purposes of removing approximately one million cubic yards of earth, which is polluted (Kayen and Walter, 32). EPA experts will also cap other acres of land which are polluted, beneath sand, feet of rocks, and carbon. This is for purposes of preventing their exposure to the river water, thus polluting the river. Furthermore, the EPA experts intend to cover other less polluted areas of the river bottom, with a foot of new mud and earth. The timing of this restoration work will ensure that the process under consideration does not tamper with the operations of the business organizations (Welch, 10). This means that the process will be flexible, so that the workers will ensure that they do not affect the activities of the organizations using the river.

The short term process of cleaning this river will focus on the removal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) (Welch, 23). These are chemical substances found in hydraulic fluids, and they have the capability of affecting the internal organs of individuals or human beings. The PCBs have the capability of attaching themselves to marine foods, which are heavily consumed by human beings. This therefore means that human beings are at risk of damaging their internal organs because of the consumption of these food substances (Person, 9). The long term clean up of this river, will focus on the removal of arsenic pollutants, and other compounds responsible for causing pollution. Through this action, the federal government believes that the food substances emanating from the river will be free from contamination, hence safe for human consumption.


In conclusion, River Duwamish is one of the most polluted natural resources in United States. Most of the pollution that has occurred in this river emanates from industries such as Lafarge, Boeing, and government agencies such as the City of Seattle, the King County and the Port of Seattle. As discussed in this paper, institutions such as Lafarge and Boeing are guilty of dumping chemical wastes in this river. This has an impact of introducing the PCB into the river. This is a very harmful chemical substance that has the capability of moving into marine creatures. This in turn can find its way into the bodies of human beings, hence causing cancers or other internal injuries. Furthermore, pollution of this river has had an impact in destroying the rearing grounds of the Salmon fish. The existence of toxic substances makes it difficult for the young ones of these fish, to survive.

Based on these facts, the Duwamish River is important to the people of Seattle mainly because it is a source of food, and it plays an important role in the ecosystem; by acting as a breeding and rearing ground for the Salmon fish (Welch, 25). Because of the existence of this river, Seattle has also emerged as an important transportation hub, hence the development of the Port of Seattle. One of the major ways which sediments and pollutants enter the river is through the Storm water runways. These are paths, where water follows, when there is a heavy rain. As water passes through these paths, it is able to collect pollutants, throwing them to the river.

Therefore, for a successful clean up of the river, there is a need of identifying these runways, and initiating measures at closing them. However, it is important to explain that closing these runways, also has a danger of facilitating the pollution of the environment. This is because the sediments would not be disposed off. Based on this fact, it is not sufficient to close these pathways, without finding an alternative method of disposing off the sediments and other pollutants of the river, which normally find their way into the river, through these storm runways. To achieve efficiency in this aspect, the government should develop plastic bins, where domestic consumers can dump their wastes, which can then be disposed off, in a safe and convenient manner.

Through this action, the government will be reducing the amount of pollutants that find their way into the river, through the storm runways. Finally, another recommended method is the creation of the Duwamish police. This police force should only be responsible for the protection of the river. This police force should be under EPA, and they will have the mandate of implementing the policies developed by EPA regarding the conservation and protection of this River. However, this would require a legislative process, from the Federal government, so that this police force will be able to obtain legitimacy.

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Delta, Seattle, Washington. Reston, Va: US Geological Survey, 2007. Print.

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