New Duwamish Valley report: ‘Greatest cumulative health impacts’

You know this is a special place to live – but it’s also a health-challenging place to live, according to a study that’s coming out today, as announced by the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, which is making recommendations as a result. Here’s the news release:

A new study by two non-profit environmental health organizations reveals that residents of the Duwamish Valley’s 98108 ZIP code and the neighborhoods of South Park and Georgetown are exposed to more pollution, have greater vulnerabilities to pollution-caused illness, and live shorter lives than residents in other areas of Seattle and King County.

The Duwamish Valley Cumulative Health Impacts Analysis examines data on disease rates and environmental and socioeconomic indicators of health in the 98108 ZIP code, which includes South Park, Georgetown and part of Beacon Hill, and compares these to other areas of Seattle and King County. The report also provides data from the larger Duwamish Valley and smaller census tracts for the riverside neighborhoods of South Park and Georgetown. “Cumulative” health impacts refer to all combined pollution exposures, as well as conditions known to make people more vulnerable to illness, such as poverty and stress.

Findings of the study include:

– 98108 residents have the greatest cumulative health impacts citywide;

– 98108 ranks poorest in the city for most environmental health factors;

– the ZIP code data masks even greater health disparities in South Park and Georgetown, including a life expectancy eight years shorter than the Seattle and King County averages, and a full 13 years shorter than for residents of Laurelhurst, in the 98105 ZIP code in North Seattle.

“All people deserve the opportunity to live up to their full potential,” says Linn Gould of Just Health Action, lead researcher and author of the helth report. “This study shows that Duwamish Valley residents are disproportionately and unfairly burdened by multiple stressors outside of their control. Decision makers should take action to resolve these inequities.”

Based on the report, DRCC/TAG will make recommendations to EPA and other agencies about ways to improve community health and strengthen health protections in the cleanup plan for the Duwamish River, which was released for public review and comment on February 28. DRCC/TAG serves as EPA’s Community Advisory Group for the Duwamish River Superfund Site.

“The Duwamish River is the largest toxic site in the Duwamish Valley, and one of many influences on health that are burdening local residents,” according to BJ Cummings of DRCC/TAG. ” EPA’s cleanup plan is out for public review, so we have an opportunity to make sure that it reduces health risks and optimizes benefits to the greatest extent possible.”

DRCC/TAG’s recommendations include:

– creating a Community Health Task Force and funding a Community Health Mitigation and Revitalization Fund, to reduce harmful exposures and take targeted actions to improve community health;

– enforcing pollution source controls to ensure that the river cleanup is successful; and

– removing more highly contaminated sediment from the river, to prevent future disturbances (such as earthquakes, floods, or shipping accidents) from re-exposing local residents and fishermen to buried toxic waste.

DRCC/TAG has already kick-started work on the first recommendation, giving five grants to community organizations to implement environmental health-improvement actions, including increasing tree canopy, preventing stormwater pollution, and improving food security in South Park and Georgetown. The grants were given based on a community-led prioritization and selection process, with funding from EPA’s CARE (Community Action for a Renewed Environment) grant program.

Research for the cumulative health impacts study was conducted by Linn Gould, MPH, MS, of Just Health Action. The project was managed by DRCC/TAG, and funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Program and the University of Washington’s School of Public Health and Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health.

The CHIA report and accompanying Fact Sheet can be found online after noon today on DRCC/TAG’s CHIA project web page (http://duwamishcleanup.org/programs/duwamish-community-health-initiative/the-duwamish-river-cumulative-health-impacts-analysis/)

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