Here’s my first attempt at live-blogging… 8:40-9:20 a.m. from the University of Washington’s Water Seminar.
8:40 Key findings of his and Lisa Stiffler’s investigation of the Duwamish estuary:
- Pollution is historic an ongoing; diversity is down; everyone is contributing to the problem (e.g. run-off)
- Some chemicals lethal; some not (Cu not good for young salmon; first run-off flush in fall was toxic enough to kill spawning adults)
- Super-fund sites are not all cleaned up! There are 900 pollution permits in the Sound; many permits are expired; PCBs are still released (e.g. by Naval Shipyard in Bremerton); State Parks and small towns are worst violators (e.g. Blake Island was dumping raw sewage — now fixed)
- PCB contamination: Chinook with most PCBs were found in Duwamish, Nisqually, and Sinclair inlet.
8:50 aside: Storm water can be controlled. There was a nice retrofit of a residential street in N Seattle with “rain gardens.” Vulcan development near Seattle REI will soon demonstrate swales as a way to filter run-off before it reaches Lake Union.
- Used to be agricultural area supplying Pike Place market with vegetables, etc.
- Industrialization led to multiple super-fund sites being defined in the lower Duwamish.
- With Colin McDonald, Robert did a series on Duwamish in preparation for the remedial study (Nov 29, 2007). This was last opportunity for public comment on polluters’ perception of the problems — King County, City of Seattle, Boeing, etc. Concluded they were probably underestimating impacts on some of the animals and tried to articulate it in common language — “concepts were complicated, but otter penises are easy to understand.”
9:00 Robert’s main information sources
- Governmental reports (NOAA/NMFS, EPA)
- Responses to his requests for information releases
- Talking to people (Government doesn’t always listen): example of Port of Seattle and moon suit examination of a site that was subsequently taken off the market
9:03 Overall message from polluters: It’s going to be too expensive!
- Some cleanup will happen
- But getting clean enough for people to eat fish may not be palatable to public (extra $400 million to get further than the plateau of the curve — cost vs cleanliness.
9:05 Takes questions:
- Is State providing non-English speaker reasonable access to the process? Not really, though the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC) is a possible mechanism.
- What are cleanup methods and how will recovery be established? Many pollutants are in sediments that need to be dug up and treated/sequestered. Hot spots like the Duwamish Diagonal were dredged (too fast, too sloppily), but pollution was spread around…
- Are your articles edited/censored? Not censorship; big stories can get a lot of feedback/iterations, but editing can be very light if there is a quick deadline. One concern is losing advertisers to stories that impact key businesses.
- How long does it take to write these articles: hours for quick ones (e.g. today’s article on NMFS moratorium on building in flood plains), many days for big projects.
- How did you get into journalism? In 8th grade journalism class, Robert argued for a smoking area across from School and was encouraged by his teacher who was vehemently anti-smoking.
- How do you settle on a subject when there are so many issues? The blog helps us comment quickly on minor news (e.g. press releases). We interview and investigate for stories in the paper.
- Do you have formal environmental training? Fellowship at U Michigan. Before that it was highschool chemistry. Society of Environmental Journalists is a very helpful resource; they have a great listserve that can be a very responsive source of expertise.
- Have you felt like you had a powerful influence on public awareness or an issue? I wrote early and often about Everglades restoration and it’s now one of the biggest efforts in the world. I think I’ve helped catalyze local cleanup, like the creation of the Puget Sound Partnership.
- Are scientists hard to work with? Yeah, many journalists weren’t interested in math/science in school., but I really like hanging out with scientists.