Business and the Environment – Earth Day 2000 -Superfund Ugly Duckling Has Come A Long Way

“With a new convention center, a new Tacoma Art Museum, and redevelopment of the Thea Foss Waterway on the horizon, the future of Tacoma continues to be exciting. Developments on the cultural and economic front will be a cornerstone to preserving and improving the quality of life for everyone in Tacoma. An often overlooked factor to improving our quality of life, is the improvement of our environment. Clean air and clean water are as important as good jobs and a cultural identity in order to achieve a high standard of living.Since the early 1980’s Tacoma has been plagued with the unflattering distinction of being one of the largest federally designated Superfund hazardous waste sites in the country. Times are changing for the better. A recent front page headline in The Oregonian remarked Superfund transforms Tacoma’s riverfront – Although the bay isn’t yet pristine, the city sullied by industry witnesses an economic renewal spurred by environmental cleanup. (Sunday, April 9, 2000). We’ve come along way from being the ugly duckling. Now we are an example to the region and the nation on how Superfund cleanup works and can result in new economic growth. In the past ten years, businesses and local government have greatly reduced the amount of pollution entering Commencement Bay. While progress under the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program appears slow on a daily basis, looking back over ten years of milestones shows a brighter picture. Cleanup projects completed by Simpson Tacoma Kraft and the Port of Tacoma resulted in the confinement of 1.2 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment away from the bay’s marine environment. Cleanup efforts in the Port of Tacoma area have reduced toxic metal loading in the Bay by 87%. Cleanup of residential properties around the former ASARCO smelter and cleanup of the site itself is currently underway with expected completion in 2003. Restoration Trustees have set aside eight sites in the tideflats for restoration efforts and collected $12 million for restoration projects. And the community has pitched in the cleanup and restoration effort as well. Over the past ten years, volunteers have donated 15,000 hours to Citizens for a Healthy Bay’s education, advocacy and restoration programs. Volunteers planted 4,500 trees and shrubs at restoration sites throughout the Bay. Members have written hundreds of letters to the government voicing their concerns about cleanup and restoration projects. And Citizens for a Healthy Bay has educated over 17,000 people about preventing storm water pollution since our Graffiti Tacoma Green Program began in 1996. These are tremendous accomplishments! Tacoma has come a long way from smog filled skies, murky waters, and a dead zone at the mouth of the Puyallup River. This April 22, on the thirtieth anniversary of Earth Day, businesses, government, and residents of Tacoma deserve recognition for the successes we’ve had so far. While, we still have many tasks to achieve to return fishable and swimmable waters to Commencement Bay, after twenty years of study, planning, and implementation, Commencement Bay is getting healthier. For all of you who have taken part in the cleanup of Commencement Bay, whether by cleaning up past pollution problems, investing in new pollution prevention at your business, or for every individual who disposed of their hazardous waste properly, Citizens for a Healthy Bay sends you tremendous thanks for your thoughtful and dedicated actions. The Bay will only be healthy if we all do our part to take care of it.To celebrate the accomplishments made so far in cleaning up Commencement Bay, Citizens for a Healthy Bay invites the entire community down to Ruston Way on Saturday, April 22 at 1 p.m. for 2000 Hands Around the Bay. Please join us and others to show their support for a clean and healthy Bay. Our community has achieved some major environmental hurtles in the last ten years and its time we take an opportunity to appreciate how wonderful, beautiful, intriguing, and valuable Commencement Bay is to our quality of life in Tacoma.Note: This is one of several guest commentaries on business and Earth Day 2000 written for the Tacoma Daily Index. These columns do not necessarily represent the views of the Tacoma Daily Index.For more information on 2000 Hands Around the Bay on Earth Day 2000, Saturday, April 22, contact Citizens for a Healthy Bay at 253-383-2429.”