Hazardous Waste Site | Everett, Washington | Early 1900s to Present
The Port Gardner Bay/Snohomish River Estuary receives contaminant inputs from multiple sources. Releases of hazardous substances into Port Gardner Bay have resulted from industrial and municipal processes since the early 1900s, including factories, spills during cargo transfer and refueling, storm water runoff through contaminated soils at upland facilities, discharge of contaminated groundwater, and lumber operations, such as sawmills, and pulp and paper mills.
What Were the Impacts?
Data indicate that there is sediment contamination in some areas of Port Gardner that is sufficient to cause injury to natural resources. The Port Gardner and Snohomish River estuary area provides important spawning, rearing, and feeding areas for many fish and wildlife species.
Historically, the lower estuary consisted of mudflats, tidal marshes, scrub-shrub wetlands, and swamp forests at higher elevations. Federally-listed species under the Endangered Species Act are known to occur or may be found in the vicinity of the Port Gardner Assessment Area and include Coastal-Puget Sound Bull Trout, Puget Sound Chinook salmon, and Puget Sound steelhead.
What’s Happening Now?
In response to the historical releases of hazardous materials into Port Gardner Bay, federal, state, and tribal natural resource Trustees announced the release of a Draft Damage Assessment Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (Plan/EA) (link is external) for a 30 day public comment period ending in September 2016.
After public comment review and analysis, the trustees released the Final Damage Assessment Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (link is external) in December 2016.
On January 31, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $4 million settlement and consent decree (pdf) resolving claims that three companies were responsible for discharges of oil and other hazardous substances in Port Gardner Bay and Snohomish River
The natural resource Trustees, including NOAA, will use settlement funds to restore the public’s injured or lost natural resources. Settlement funds will go towards preserving and enhancing wetlands like marsh, intertidal mudflat, floodplains and riparian habitat, specifically, the Blue Heron Slough Restoration Project in Everett, identified in the previously approved final restoration plan. The restoration effort will also involve citizens, engage local partnerships, and continue to protect habitat from future damage.
After a 30-day public comment period, the consent decree (pdf) was approved by the court.
On June 3, 2019, the Department of Justice announced that another consent decree was lodged. Under the proposed settlement, two responsible parties, Port of Everett and U.S. Navy, will contribute to habitat restoration at the Blue Heron Slough Restoration Project in the Snohomish River Estuary.
The public can comment on this consent decree on the Department of Justice website.