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Otterly wonderful Duwamish video

SEATTLE — Even before the heavy equipment has cleared out, a North American river otter (Lutra canadensis) has moved into the new habitat being created along the shores of the Duwamish River, at Slip 4, as part of the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund cleanup.

A video shared by Seattle Public Utilities today shows the little otter feels right at home on the newly restored section of the Lower Duwamish.

“The Lower Duwamish Waterway is a living room for a variety of animals living in and near the water. We’re making progress toward restoring our city’s only river,” said Karen Keeley, project manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The City of Seattle started cleaning up Slip 4 last October with funding from the City, The Boeing Company and matching grants from the Washington Department of Ecology. The $8 million cleanup, regulated by the EPA, began last October in the 6.4-acre navigational slip historically contaminated with PCBs.

The cleanup includes removing contaminated river mud and soils from the bottom and banks of the slip and covering remaining sediments and soils with a combination of clean sand, gravel, and rock to create an engineered cap over any remaining contamination. The project aims to improve, expand, and restore 3.5 acres of vital habitat for fish and wildlife. It adds habitat along the bank, in shallow water, and in the intertidal area, resulting in a net gain of more than an acre of shallow and riparian habitat for threatened Puget Sound Chinook and Coastal/Puget Sound bull trout.

The site, three miles upstream from Harbor Island, near the Georgetown community, is one of five major lower Duwamish hotspots. These five areas collectively account for about half the chemical contamination in the river. The project, comes as the EPA considers how to clean up the rest of the five-mile portion of the river. EPA’s cleanup plan is expected to be issued this year.

The cleanup includes controlling ongoing pollution sources to Slip 4. Source control actions led by Ecology and EPA have been completed at a number of properties and other efforts will continue to ensure that the cleanup of Slip 4 is not re-contaminated in the future.

Slip 4 construction is expected to wrap up in February.

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In addition to providing a reliable water supply to more than 1.3 million customers in the Seattle metropolitan area, SPU provides essential sewer, drainage, solid waste and engineering services that safeguard public health, maintain the City’s infrastructure and protect, conserve and enhance the region’s environmental resources.