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Companies' volunteers and Forterra helping clean up Duwamish

courtesy Forterra

People power is helping to clean up one of Seattle's most polluted rivers.  On Friday, about a hundred volunteers who work for the Boeing Employees Credit Union pitched in along the Duwamish in Tukwila. They’ve set a five-year goal of cleaning up two miles of shoreline. 

The Duwamish River runs through the heart of Seattle, where the city’s industrial past has left tainted soil and toxins that are harmful to humans. The natural landscape is gone. What was once a winding river was long ago straightened into a canal. Himalyan blackberries have taken over the shoreline.

Now city people are pitching in to try and help fix that.

“You have to have goals…and they have to be ambitious, ” says Gene Duvernoy.

He’s the executive director of Forterra, one of the environmental groups helping to support the clean-up effort. They’ve created what they’re calling a Cascade Agenda and clearing invasive blackberries is part of it.

“It takes a lot of deep digging and then replanting and then a lot of coming back and maintenance to make sure they don’t sprout up again,” Duvernoy says.

Clearing invasive blackberries is part of Forterra’s mission to restore ecosystems, even in industrial landscapes along the Duwamish.

Boeing Employees Credit Union says one of their workers looked out on that stretch of the Duwamish and got inspired to help pitch in. BECU's corporate spokesman Todd Pietzsch says an employee named Mike Arizona is the man who started it all, two years ago. His effort is now called the Restore the Duwamish Shoreline Challenge.

It kicked off formally on Friday with speeches and festivities before the shoveling began. Forterra and BECUhope they can use lots of companies' donated volunteer hours to help federal and local officials continue clean up work on the Superfund site.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to