Port of Seattle Sues Boeing Over Superfund Cleanup Costs

Image via Port of Seattle.

The Port of Seattle filed a civil lawsuit against Boeing Co. on July 19 saying that it wants Boeing to reimburse the port for millions of dollars in superfund cleanup expenses in the Lower Duwamish Waterway.

The Seattle seaport is asking Boeing for reimbursements spanning 22 years and is also seeking the court to establish “a fair share for Boeing to pay for future cleanup costs.”

The port said that for decades the company “pumped polychlorinated biphenyl from numerous transformer vaults (holding leaking transformers) at its Plant 2 facility directly to the Lower Duwamish Waterway.”

The port also contends that the company “released large magnitudes of other hazardous substances” such as dioxins/furans and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to the waterway from 300 acres of its facilities.

“The port cannot accept an arrangement whereby local taxpayers would be stuck effectively subsidizing Boeing’s cleanup bill,” the complaint states in part. “Boeing has gleaned billions of dollars in profits over the past several decades partly through externalizing its waste disposal costs by dumping wastes into the Lower Duwamish River.”

“The port, as a steward of public funds, cannot agree to redirect King County taxpayers’ funds from projects and programs that benefit the public in order to permit Boeing to pay far less than its fair share of Lower Duwamish Waterway cleanup costs,” the complaint continues.

In a July 21 email to PMM Online, Boeing said the port’s “unilateral decision to file a lawsuit against Boeing risks upsetting years of good-faith negotiation and collaboration among a large number of public and private parties.”

The port, Boeing, the city of Seattle and King County have been working toward cleaning up the waterway for more than 20 years.

During this time, the company said, it has spent more than $120 million in cleanup work, including early cleanup of a large area adjacent to its Plant 2 facility. Boeing also has already restored over five acres of fish and wildlife habitat along the banks of the Duwamish.

“As part of this joint effort, for the past eight years, Boeing has been participating in an ongoing voluntary allocation process with the port and many other parties, where an experienced mediator and Superfund expert evaluated information on Lower Duwamish Waterway contamination and assigned shares that reflect each party’s responsibility for cleanup costs,” the company told PMM Online.

“Boeing had agreed to accept its assigned share as part of an overall negotiated resolution of this matter. We hope that, rather than resorting to litigation and press releases, the Port of Seattle will take appropriate responsibility for its past contributions to the contamination of the Duwamish, and constructively support this important environmental cleanup,” Boeing said.

Meanwhile, the port this month opened a new 14-acre park and habitat restoration site at the former Terminal 117, a result of cleaning up shoreline and in-water sediment over the years.

The lawsuit can be seen online at https://www.portseattle.org/sites/default/files/2022-07/2022.07.19_%28001%29_COMPLAINT.pdf

By Karen Robes Meeks