The P-I’s series on the Duwamish River Superfund site looks at the impact of the pollution on area tribes, which consume above-average amounts of seafood:
Health authorities condone eating salmon out of the Duwamish River up to four times a month. But some tribal members are consuming far more — eating it daily, in some cases.
Another tribe wants to gather clams from the polluted river after it’s cleaned up — but is criticizing the federal government for telling big Duwamish polluters and landowners to count on artificially low consumption rates.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to justify those lower rates, cited a study of a third tribe that doesn’t even fish the Duwamish — and eats a lot less seafood.
In the past seven years, the number of Muckleshoot boats working the river increased from fewer than a dozen to more than 70, thanks to a contract with Safeway, (Vice Chairman of the Muckleshoot Fishery Commission Phil) Hamilton said. The chain agreed to buy all the fish the tribe will sell. It’s labeled as coming from the Muckleshoots, although labels don’t mention the Duwamish River.
“We’ve have absolutely no concerns,” said Cherie Myers, a spokeswoman for Safeway. “The biggest problem is the supply — the (chinook) run only lasts a few weeks.”
The Muckleshoot fishermen who’ll unload 500 to 1,000 pounds of fish from this night’s haul will walk away with hefty checks, $1,500 to $3,000.
In the 1970s, when Hamilton started, tribal fishermen could make $60,000 to $70,000 a year. Then the market crashed and buyers disappeared. Hamilton went to work for the tribe. Now with the limited openings fishermen can pull in about $20,000 to $30,000, he said.
The EPA says the only two scientifically sound tribal consumption studies in Puget Sound are those of the Suquamish, based across Puget Sound on the Kitsap Peninsula, and the Tulalips, based north of Everett.
The Tulalips don’t fish in the Duwamish. The Suquamish do, as far south as the West Seattle Bridge.
A big seafood eater in the Tulalip tribe eats maybe 7 ounces of seafood a day, on average. The corresponding Suquamish figure is 1 pound, 11 ounces.
So, which one did the EPA choose to determine how much the Duwamish must be cleaned?
The Tulalips — the one that allows for less cleanup.
Even using that benchmark, there’s still plenty of work to do. Allowing people to eat from the Duwamish today at the rate Tulalips consume seafood would result in an excess cancer risk of three people out of every thousand — a risk 30 times higher than the highest cancer rate considered acceptable.