Sound Status Update – March 2020

CHB COVID-19 Community Update

This community is everything to us at Citizens for a Healthy Bay, and we are dedicated to doing everything we can to contain the spread of COVID-19. We strongly believe in our shared vision of a clean and healthy Tacoma and South Puget Sound for everyone and will continue working to achieve this goal. During this unprecedented time, we are deeply committed to not just our environment, but to the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, and CHB community as well. As the circumstances around public health continue to change, we wanted to share the precautions we are taking to “flatten the curve.”

We are postponing upcoming advocacy forums, volunteer beach cleanups, education events, and special events until we know it is safe to hold these activities, and we will update the community via about these activities via social media (FacebookTwitter, and Instagram) and through email (sign up for email updates).

We know many of you are staying home to practice social distancing, work remotely, take care of your children while school is canceled, or all of the above. While social isolation is an important preventative measure in times like these, it can also be taxing and stressful.

That’s why, in the next few weeks, we’re going to be releasing different ways to get engaged with our programs digitally. In fact, soon you’ll be able to digitally transport yourselves out of the house and onto one of our pollution patrols of Commencement Bay, no Dramamine required. Stay tuned for that video and more in the upcoming weeks!

Protecting public health and safety alongside Marine View Drive

In early March, we learned about a proposed housing development in one of Tacoma’s most environmentally fragile areas – the steep, forested hillside along Marine View Drive. Building houses on these steep hillsides, known as bluffs, can be extremely dangerous for a variety of reasons. To make space for the new housing development, the hillside must be cleared of all trees and shrubs. However, plant life is essential to maintaining the stability of these slopes, and removing these plants will significantly weaken the stability and structural integrity of the hillside. A decrease in stability increases the chance that dangerous landslides, which could harm residents and other community members, might occur.

Adding more housing this close to our industrial port will also put the new homeowners’ health at risk due to the proposed development’s proximity to the industrial area of the Tacoma Tideflats and its high volume of vehicle traffic, both of which are sources of increased air pollution. Data shows that communities near higher concentrations of air pollution exhibit increased risk of stroke and heart attack, as well as higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illness.

Public health and safety concerns are exactly why these locations are unsuitable for new housing developments and are prohibited by the Tideflats Interim Regulations. Unfortunately, the application for this proposed development was allowed to continue because it was submitted in 2014, three years prior to the passing of Interim Regulations in 2017. To protect the community’s health and safety, we have requested the City of Tacoma to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement for this proposal to understand and analyze all the adverse environmental and public health impacts before deciding to allow this project to move forward.

Strengthening the most important cleanup rule in Washington State

Even though everyone at CHB is working from home, we are still tirelessly working to protect our community from the threats of contaminated sites. One of the ways we’re striving to achieve greater environmental impact is through our work strengthen the Model Toxics Control Act, or the “Cleanup Rule” as it is sometimes called. The Department of Ecology implemented the “Cleanup Rule” in 1989 to set cleanup standards for how contaminated sites left behind by industry – like the Occidental Chemical site. The Cleanup Rule has not been fully updated since 2001 and needs a makeover to incorporate new science and considerations for communities that are overburdened by legacy contamination.

A Stakeholder and Tribal Advisory Group (STAG) for the Cleanup Rule was created to provide the Department of Ecology with diverse perspectives on how the Cleanup Rule should be updated. CHB’s Policy and Technical Program Manager, Erin Dilworth, is a member of this group and been advocating for updates in the Cleanup Rule that will ensure environmental justice concerns are part of every cleanup process, polluters are held accountable for the pollution they leave behind, and improved cleanup standards for toxic sites to better protect our communities. Updating the Cleanup Rule will be a process that takes several years, and we are excited for the opportunity to make the Rule stronger, for everyone.

Tacoma is starting the crucial subarea planning process

Tacoma is beginning the Tideflats subarea planning process, which will create a plan for what the Tideflats and Port of Tacoma will look like for decades to come, especially regarding how Tacoma will transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.

Right now, the Subarea Plan is still very early in the planning process, but things are beginning to move forward. Governments who are a part of the process appointed stakeholders who will speak up for what this plan should address. We are humbled and honored to say that the Puyallup Tribe of Indians selected Melissa Malott to represent environmental interests on the Tideflats Stakeholder Advisory Group. This is a tremendous opportunity to a part of something that will shape Tacoma’s future. Members of the Stakeholder Advisory Group will help develop the environmental review for the Plan, including how fossil fuels, contaminated site cleanups, stormwater control and treatment, sea-level rise, and habitat restoration, among other issues will be evaluated.

Currently, due to COVID-19, the project management team is assessing options for remote meetings into the future. We will keep you updated as things move forward!

Interesting reads from the month of March

    • For the newly minted homeschoolers out there, if you feel your curriculum has been lacking important marine science components, check out this great resource! There are some great chapters on the Southern Resident orcas, stormwater, and the Salish Sea: https://www.juniorseadoctors.com/curriculum
    • Citing COVID-19, the EPA just implemented a new policy that is an unprecedented relaxation of rules for petrochemical plants and other major polluters: http://ow.ly/5q5X50yXVs3
    • Coronavirus is putting climate science on hold: http://ow.ly/7UvN50z1xbn

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