Extensively dredged and filled since the 1800’s, this 12-square mile site consists of eight industrialized waterways, shorelines and uplands. Nearly 300 industries have produced a variety of hazardous substances such as solvents, metals, PCBs, pesticides, and PAHs which end up in the air, surface and ground water, as well as the sediments and soils of the Commencement Bay area. Concentrations of 100 to 1000 times those in reference areas were measured for 28 contaminants or contaminant groups. This widespread contamination led the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to list the site in 1981 as a Superfund site.
Contaminants released from activities such as ship building and repair, timber-related pulp and kraft milling, oil refining, chemical manufacturing and storage, aluminum and specialty ore smelting, and automotive repair and recycling, have impacted fish and wildlife of South Puget Sound. These contaminant related impacts include fishery closures and warnings, exceedences of State water and sediment quality standards, fin erosion, tumors in fish, reproductive and behavioral effects, suppressed disease resistance, and reduced populations.