Sound Status Update — July 2017

By Melissa Malott, Executive Director

Hi folks,

Before I get into the nitty gritty of all the important issues happening in Tacoma and south Puget Sound right now, I want to start by discussing the reason behind this piece. As you may know, we haven’t sent our quarterly newsletter, Tidings, in quite some time; don’t worry, we noticed as well. In place of Tidings, we decided that in place of a large quarterly newsletter, we’re going to do smaller monthly updates instead.

In these monthly updates, we’ll cover what we’re doing and what’s happening in the South Sound. Hopefully, with smaller but more frequent updates, we can better inform you about what’s going on in our communities and environment.

Be sure to drop me a line to let me know what you think of this update.

Climate change and a healthy bay

You may have seen a number of alarming, but not alarmist, articles about climate change recently. In Puget Sound, we’re already feeling the impacts of a changing climate; it’s damaging our salmon populations and the shellfish industry, with no end in sight.

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activities, specifically the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. To reduce climate change’s harmful effects, we need to drastically reduce the amount of fossil fuels we burn. That’s why Citizens for a Healthy Bay is pushing for the implementation of a temporary freeze on future fossil fuel facilities and expansions in the Tacoma Tideflats. Our goal with this short-term solution is to focus solely on the urgent need to prohibit new or expanded fossil fuel projects in the local landscape in order to combat the serious threat of climate change.

Why are we pushing for a short-term solution in the face of an immensely complex issue that requires thorough, long-term planning? Because happening simultaneously to our push for a temporary freeze on new fossil fuel projects, the City and Port of Tacoma are planning to have an in-depth community conversation (called a subarea plan) about the future of the Tacoma Tideflats. And that’s a good thing. We fully support this discussion process. However, the process could take up to four or even five years to complete. We simply cannot risk leaving our communities exposed to the very real likelihood of new fossil fuel projects for that long. That’s why we are pushing for a short-term, fossil fuel moratorium; to protect our community until after the discussion about the future of the Tacoma Tideflats. Find out more about the proposed temporary ban on new fossil fuel projects here.

Cleanup of contamination at the Occidental Chemical Site

In late June, we pushed the state to require a comprehensive cleanup of the Occidental Chemical (OxyChem) site. Read about the massive extent of OxyChem’s contamination and what we think, here.

Cleanup of other contaminated sites

We are tracking the cleanup of several sites in the tide flats, and have the following updates:

Superlon site: Superlon Plastics Co. manufactures plastic piping on a site that was formerly a lead-arsenate manufacturing facility. The site is home to waste from the Occidental Chemical facility and is contaminated by heavy metals, gasoline and diesel and volatile organic compounds. Most concerning is the high levels of arsenic and lead in the site’s soil and groundwater. Initial leanup began in 2009, but is moving slowly towards getting the contamination below federal hazardous waste levels. Read more about the Superlon Plastics site.

Taylor Way & Alexander Ave Fill Area: The Taylor Way and Alexander Ave Fill cleanup site is an 11-acre site on the Blair-Hylebos peninsula in Commencement Bay, which is polluted with petroleum, semi-volatile organic compounds and heavy metals above safe levels. The community can now comment on a partial cleanup in which the Port of Tacoma proposes to cap a portion of the site using pavement, buildings and imported clean soil. A larger and more comprehensive action for the entire site will eventually take place that includes all the potentially liable parties for the larger site. Check out more information regarding the cleanup site.

Final Thoughts

We have a golden opportunity to write a new chapter for Tacoma’s future. We’re part of a movement that could be a defining, historic moment in our history — we can show that a cleaner future is possible.

What we’re working to achieve here in Tacoma wouldn’t just affect Tacoma, Pierce County, or Washington State. By banning new fossil fuel projects, we can send a message across the country and prove that a big industrial city like Tacoma can free itself from fossil fuels and take control of its future. This message will be heard all over the nation — they will hear our story and know that they, too, can take control of their futures; that it can be done.

Let’s seize this opportunity to build a better future. Let’s commit to fighting for the things that matter most to the City of Destiny; our communities and our environment.

In partnership,

Melissa Malott

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