We're committed to providing environmental justice to our most vulnerable communities. It is a priority in our efforts to restore and protect land, air, and water. Below are examples of our work to meaningfully engage communities and address environmental issues in areas with environmental justice considerations.
We developed and maintain a map of contaminated cleanup sites around the state. This easy-to-use, interactive map allows everyone living in Washington to be able to find contaminated cleanup sites near them. It also provides the latest information on cleanup efforts at each site.
To see what's in your neighborhood, take a look at our map.
We're working on 12 contaminated cleanup sites in Bellingham Bay. One of them is called "Georgia Pacific West," an area that has contaminated soil and groundwater from former industrial operations.
We awarded the Port of Bellingham an Integrated Planning Grant to help determine the extent of contamination, and then the Port will work with local affordable housing organizations to study viability of providing healthy and affordable housing options on the site.
Gentrification can be a big problem with cleanup efforts. As areas are cleaned up and developed, local communities are priced out of affordable places to live. This project will help provide affordable homes for those people who could be priced out of the area. Plans also include a food campus for local producers that will incorporate storage, workforce training kitchens, retail and event space, as well as affordable housing. Construction could start as early as 2021.
Using Public Participation Grants, we also help fund, and collaborate with, a local non-profit calld RE Sources to help reach and connect with people in the community. Read more about their environmental justice efforts in Bellingham Bay.
We're leading efforts to control sources of pollution from the drainage area surrounding the Lower Duwamish Waterway (LDW) Superfund site in Seattle. The LDW Superfund site is a 5-mile portion of the Duwamish River that flows into Elliott Bay. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees cleanup of the river sediments.
Before sediment cleanup can begin, we need to control the sources of pollution to the river sediments. That means we must investigate more than 20,000 acres of land that drains into the river. Source control means finding the sources and extent of contamination, then taking actions to stop or reduce them before they reach the LDW.
The Duwamish Valley communities are diverse, encompassing a broad range of backgrounds, cultures, and languages. To effectively engage and involve the community, we conduct environmental justice analyses of project areas using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping tool. We then tailor outreach strategies to address equity issues.
Providing language access to cleanup information is an important part of public involvement. To assess language needs, we use census data to identify populations speaking languages other than English. We provide translation of written materials and interpretation services in various languages including Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese.
Ensuring that public meetings and open houses integrate with peoples’ lives is crucial to support meaningful involvement. This means holding events in locations accessible by public transportation, as well as providing interpretation services, food, and childcare.
Working with community organizations allows us to further connect with the community. We partner with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC) to involve the public in the cleanup process and address community concerns. We provide funding to DRCC through the Public Participation Grant program.
For almost 100 years, the Asarco Company operated a copper smelter in Tacoma. Air pollution from the smelter settled on the surface soil of more than 1,000 square miles of the Puget Sound basin. Arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals are still in the soil as a result of this pollution. We started cleanup work in the area in 2006, and we continue to work with local communities to protect public and environmental health.
The communities affected by the Tacoma smelter plume are diverse. Our outreach and cleanup efforts are modified to meet the needs of the various communities.
We fund and work with local health departments through interagency agreements. The health departments in turn fund community projects and conduct targeted outreach. Our goal is to fund those closest to the work.
Some examples include:
Public Health Seattle & King County works with local community grantees like Tilth Alliance to help get the information out to the communities
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department offers free soil sampling and offers a toolkit and resources to get free mulch to cover bare dirt; the program is specifically targeted to families with children
We created a Dirt Alert map to provide information on free soil sampling in the service area. The service area is a small area of the plume where arsenic concentrations are the highest. In this area, we operate the Yard Program and the Soil Safety Program. We offer free sampling and soil replacement to residential properties with the highest concentrations of arsenic and lead. The map makes it easy for anyone to find out if they live in the affected area, if their soil was replaced, or is eligible for cleanup.
We have conducted extensive outreach in the yard sampling service area. Our initial emphasis was on sampling soil at schools and childcare play areas through the Soil Safety Program. Our Healthy Action outreach materials are available in a variety of languages.
We work with businesses to help them voluntarily clean up their soil.
We're investing Volkswagen settlement and penalty funds in programs that are drastically reducing harmful emissions from transportation sources. We're prioritizing investments that maximize air pollution reductions and improve public health in communities that have historically borne a disproportionate share of the air pollution burden in Washington.
We worked with partners to use a variety of tools to identify and consider beneficial impacts of projects in these communities. See our "Improving air quality & public health" web page for more information.
Climate change poses a threat to Washington’s snowpack, coastlines, forests, and agricultural economy. But climate change also adds to existing health disparities and increases the burdens on the state’s most vulnerable and sensitive populations.
Extreme heat events and increasing air pollution mean increases in diseases like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and COPD, and it may mean that these diseases become more prevalent.
The impacts to vulnerable and sensitive populations of urban heat islands, food deserts, and homelessness will also be magnified by the effects of climate change.
Climate change worsens environmental injustice. The health concerns influenced by climate change are more acute for communities who already face disproportionate exposure to diesel emissions, toxic contamination, and other forms of pollution.
Other factors, like a person’s age, language spoken, disability, and their access to affordable health care, technology, and the internet, may create barriers to receiving essential information and resources needed to protect health or ensure well-being for their families and communities.
Scientists and researchers at the Washington State Department of Health built a database of geographic, demographic, environmental, and health information to help understand health data and identify health disparities in Washington.
Ecology uses this powerful tool to develop criteria to evaluate potential investments from the $140 million settlement the state received from the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal. Using the database helps us direct funding for electric transit and school buses, cleaner diesel vehicles, and charging infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles toward projects that benefit communities disproportionately burdened with air pollution.