EPA seeks $367,500 penalty for Duwamish cleanup work

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seems to have finally lost patience with the faulty work done in the industrial waste cleanup at Seattle's Duwamish Waterway, and has demanded a six-figure penalty be inflicted on a steel producer with a strong presence on the river.

The EPA seeks $367,500 in penalties from the Earle M. Jorgensen Company for its repeated failures in meeting needed and agreed-upon requirements for its share of the Duwamish Waterway cleanup.

The failures include a glitch in a nine-month old plan to restore the waterway and clear it of heavy metal-containing soils.

The waterway flows through several low-income neighborhoods that, since the pollution, have seen a spike in health problems among children. The river is used for both fishing and shellfishing by Native American, immigrant, and low-income communities, making its delayed cleanup a major health risk.

Sheila Fleming, the associate director of the EPA's Region X Superfund office, says that the organization understands that occasionally mistakes are made, but when warnings are ignored week after week, month after month, it seems that the company and its contractors just didn't care about the law." She added that "many of the violations were discovered by the EPA and its representatives despite (Jorgensen) representatives being on-site at that time"

The cleanup is part of a $342 million plan to remove 90 percent of pollution from the river and restore it as a recreational site and wildlife habitat.

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