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 View of current conditions at General Recycling property from shoreline.
View of current conditions at General Recycling property from shoreline. (Photo credit: NOAA)

Proposed Settlement to Benefit Salmon, Wildlife, and Local Communities in the Lower Duwamish River, Washington

March 12, 2024

On March 12, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a proposed settlement valued at over $23 million to compensate for natural resource injuries resulting from hazardous substance releases into the Lower Duwamish River in Washington. The settlement will resolve the liability of General Recycling and two affiliates for adverse impacts to natural resources as well as the cost of assessing those injuries. 

NOAA and co-trustees (see below) are conducting a natural resource damage assessment to investigate the impacts of decades of releases of hazardous chemicals into the Lower Duwamish River and determine the appropriate type and amount of restoration needed to offset those impacts.

As part of the settlement, the companies will construct and maintain a habitat restoration project at the General Recycling facility, located on the west bank of the Lower Duwamish River in a high-priority, industrialized area of the river. It will include nearly three acres of shoreline and aquatic habitat that will provide refuge areas and food sources for wildlife and various fish species, including juvenile salmon migrating from upriver spawning areas. 

Public Comment 

The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period open until April 17th, 2024, and final court approval. It's available for viewing at the Department of Justice website. Please refer to the Federal Register notice for instructions on submitting public comments on the settlement. 

The Trustees also developed a Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment (RP/EA), which analyzes the environmental benefits and impacts of the proposed restoration. The RP/EA is subject to a 30-day public comment period. Once the comment period closes, Trustees will review and address the comments as appropriate and finalize the document.

Comments on the Draft RP/EA may be submitted electronically to
Additionally, written comments on the Draft RP/EA should be addressed to:
Lower Duwamish River NRDA
Attn: Terill Hollweg
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Building 1 (DARC)
Seattle, WA 98115

Background on the Site

The Lower Duwamish River is a highly developed, urbanized and industrialized estuary. Hazardous substances have been released since the early 1900s with over thirty (30) hazardous substances documented in the sediments of the Lower Duwamish River. The waterway includes three Superfund sites: Lockheed West, Harbor Island, and the Lower Duwamish Waterway. Toxic contaminants resulted in injuries to fish, birds, wildlife and their habitats and recreational uses, including fishing. Also, channelization and filling destroyed approximately 97 percent of the original aquatic and shoreline habitat.

The Elliott Bay Trustees have been conducting a natural resource damage assessment to assess impacts of this contamination and securing restoration on behalf of the public.  The Elliott Bay Trustees include the United States on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the State of Washington, on behalf of the Department of Ecology and Department of Fish and Wildlife; the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe; and the Suquamish Tribe.

The Trustees identified numerous potentially responsible parties for this contamination. This settlement does not represent the full amount of natural resource damages that the Trustees seek to recover from other responsible parties at this site.

This settlement is part of a series of early settlements with polluting parties for natural resource damages in the Lower Duwamish River. Recent settlements include: the Boeing Company (2010); the City of Seattle (2021); Vigor Industrial and Exxon Mobil Corp. (2021); and Lynden parties (2023). 

The Trustees continue negotiations with other potentially responsible parties with the goal of reaching settlements with other parties. If this occurs, the Trustees will lodge future consent decrees finalizing those settlements.

Additional information is available from this storymap.

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