Photo by BJ Cummings
James Rasmussen takes over as Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition coordinator Jan. 1, replacing BJ Cummings. Rasmussen is the former director of the Duwamish Longhouse Museum and an ongoing jazz musician with years of experience fighting to clean up the river.

James Rasmussen, former Duwamish Longhouse director becomes Duwamish River CC coordinator

To replace BJ Cummings, who will remain, but in different role

Many have gotten to know James Rasmussen through his jazz performances and as former director of the Duwamish Longhouse Museum and Cultural Center. Rasmussen, a leader in the Duwamish Tribe, has been involved with the push to clean the Duwamish River since 1980 and helped it become an official Superfund Site, in 2001.

On January 1, he becomes the new director for the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, and replaces BJ Cummings.

"I'll be doing more behind the scenes development and policy," said Cummings. "For me it's just about quality of life after having spent a lot of personal time with my family for the past year."

Cummings is referring to her year-long sabbatical. She went around the world with her son, Colin, 12. Her husband and Colin's father, Tom Sackett, met up with them at various exotic locales. She and her son returned in September. The West Seattle reported their journey here:

Also here:

Cummings was coordinator for eight years prior to the sabbatical. In her absence, Thea Levkovitz stepped in.

"I had promised my son when we got back I would better balance my family life," Cummings said.

Many following the journey of the Duwamish River cleanup plan have relied upon Cummings, always the energetic outgoing environmental advocate.

"I'll be conspicuous in my absence, rather than flamboyant in my presence," she said with tongue in cheek. "I have found a way to keep contributing."

"What we're doing now is letting the EPA know what it is that we've set our sites on for the future of the Duwamish River," she said in a more serious tone. "It's probably more than they were anticipating having to do," she said of their cleaning the Superfund Site. "Right now the (cleanup) alternatives are the 'Lower Duwamish Waterway Group version' of the alternatives. The EPA acknowledges that none of these now get us to our goal."

The Lower Duwamish Waterway Group includes the City, County, Port, and Boeing. Ultimately, they are on the hook to pay for the cleanup, now estimated between about $230 million and $1.2 billion depending on methods used.

"The goal is to remove as much contamination as we properly can to protect tribal and subsistence fisherman who fish and eat the seafood," she said. "Can we protect them completely? Probably not. We've created a trace amount of PCB's everywhere you can look on Earth at this point. They shouldn't be leaving anything we can remove in the river. It's not in order to make the Duwamish River a pristine paradise. The point is we're protect the livelihood of people today.

"We don't want to clean up while there are PCB's still flowing into the river," she added. "Boeing's Slip 4 is a very good plan. It's the kind of thing we want to see elsewhere on the river. They have been required to clean their storm water with PCB's before it enters the river. This is also the new finalized plan for T-117 (in South Park.) Next month we will see a plan for (Boeing's) Plant 2.

Two things in those alternatives that are troublesome," she said. "It simply does not call for to a clean enough level. They are saying the best we can do is to clean up 40 to 50 parts per billion PCB's. Now it is in in the 100's to the 1000's parts per billion, which is absurd. They are saying it will be 90-percent cleaner which is true, but not clean enough.

We should be doing comprehensive source control not just along the river but up river as well if necessary. The EPA has drawn this imaginary line at mile marker 5. It's a big job, but not that complicated."

Based on Cummings' assessment, James Rasmussen will have his hands full.

Please note: Cleanup alternatives (Feasibility Study) available - (Public) comment period extended to January 14. See the EPA website posted above for details.

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