Sage Survey: Residents Say the Port of Seattle is Making Them Sick

December 18, 2009 -- Puget Sound Sage

According to a recent survey, a majority of residents living in neighborhoods bordering the Port of Seattle believe trucks and other Port of Seattle operations are making them ill. As part of the Washington Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, Puget Sound Sage conducted a door-to-door health survey over the course of the summer in the neighborhoods that border the Port of Seattle—Georgetown and South Park. On October 7, Sage reported back to the community and media concerning the findings of the survey. The data showed:

  • 60% of Georgetown and South Park residents surveyed believe emissions from Port of Seattle trucks are making them sick;
  • 56% believe truck traffic and poor truck management pose a danger to pedestrians and car drivers;
  • 75% of survey participants want the port to reduce the pollution, noise, and pedestrian and traffic safety hazards it causes.

Puget Sound Sage released the findings in a late October press tour of affected communities, featuring interviews with community residents. Sage also organized a community meeting to present the survey results and engage residents in follow-up activities. The story was covered by all of the major Seattle TV networks, local radio and on-line/print media.

"For the past three years, the Port of Seattle has ignored community pleas at public hearings for a health impact study of port trucking," said Puget Sound Sage Executive Director David West. "In the absence of a port response, residents are taking matters into their own hands. Residents are now considering their own pollution monitoring to force the port to act."

"Once again, lower income communities and communities of color are dealing disproportionately with the impacts of heavy port trucks and airplanes," said Joyce Tseng, Community Coalition for Environmental Justice board member. "We know diesel pollution is a major risk factor for cancer and asthma. The port needs to do more to study the local effects on these small neighborhoods, but they have refused to do so."

Residents of Georgetown and South Park also have asked the port to institute a comprehensive Clean Trucks Plan—like the one used so successfully at the Port of Los Angeles—but to no avail, West said.

"Current port plans require low-income, contracted truck drivers to foot the cost of retrofitting their rigs so they release fewer emissions, or to buy new or converted rigs," West said. "This won't work. These contract drivers cannot afford to pay for retrofitting or purchasing newer trucks. It will only delay a realistic pollution solution for years."

"The port's current plan to clean up diesel pollution is deeply flawed," agreed Brady Montz, chair of the Sierra Club's Seattle Group. "We're facing daily doses of highly toxic diesel soot in our homes, schools and parks for years to come, and there's no evidence that the port's plan will work."

Watch a video of the local news coverage of the survey and the port pollution tour here.