10 Years of Clean Water

Foss Waterway Seaport Image

10 Years of Clean Water - an exhibit in partnership with the City of Tacoma’s Environmental Services Department

Water and sediment so bad that they mutated fish?? Right here in Tacoma?? The transformation of the Thea Foss Waterway…

What is a Superfund?
Did you know that not too long ago, the Thea Foss Waterway was among the most polluted, grossest places in the United States?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started a program known as Superfund in 1980 to clean up and restore extremely polluted areas all over the nation. In 1983, EPA listed the Thea Foss Waterway as part of the larger 12-acre Commencement Bay Superfund site on the very first list of the most hazardous sites in the country. Here began the process of the Superfund cleanup of the Thea Foss Waterway.

Over the years, nearly two million cubic yards of contaminated sediment accumulated in Commencement Bay due to unmonitored dumping of industrial and urban wastes because people viewed the ocean as a kind of washing machine, believing the tides just carried the waste away. Chemicals such as copper, pesticides, and other heavy metals measured at the top of the charts. Marine life in the waterway and throughout Commencement Bay was almost non-existent. The marine life that stubbornly stayed in the waterways faced DNA mutations and unnatural adaptations.

Why this exhibit?
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the cleanup of the Thea Foss Waterway.

In collaboration, the Foss Waterway Seaport, the City of Tacoma and Arts Impact created this exhibit to celebrate the monumental cleanup of the Thea Foss Waterway. As a result of the cleanup effort and all that has been done to make the waterway healthy again – from the gross, gooey yuck to the clean, inhabited waterway we now enjoy – today people can live, work, paddle and play on the Foss!

Why kid’s art?
Arts EnviroChallenger – developed by the Puget Sound Education Service District Arts Impact, the City of Tacoma’s Community and Economic Development Arts Program, and the City of Tacoma’s Environmental Services Department – works with Tacoma elementary schools to educate students about environmental sustainability. The 5 Rs – reduce, recycle, reuse, respect and responsibility – help guide the curriculum used to teach students about water quality and the importance of keeping our watershed clean. This collaborative project allowed students to take part in this historical journey, learn about the Thea Foss Waterway clean up, and have a voice in sharing how important it is for everyone to work together to maintain our waterway for future generations. With instruction from Arts Impact artists, students created the artwork for this exhibit using recycled materials.

For Families - please enjoy this exhibit using our family guide found at the entrance to the exhibit

HELP US OUT - After going through the exhibit, please add your thoughts to the "WHAT CAN YOU DO?" wall!

Our Partners and Contributors
The following businesses and organizations have contributed to the “Ten Years of Clean Water” exhibit and education programs of the Foss Waterway Seaport

Exhibit Partners
Foss Waterway Seaport
City of Tacoma, Environmental Services Division
Tacoma Public Schools

Primary Sponsor
TOTE Maritime Alaska

Supporting Contributors
Auto Warehousing Company
Berg Scaffolding
Dwyer, Pemberton & Coulson
Foss Waterway Development Authority
Neil Walter Company
Nichols Trucking Company
NuStar Energy L.P., West Region
Propellor Club
PRS Group, Inc.
Republic Parking NW Inc.
Sound Credit Union
South Sound Sports Commission
U.S. Oil & Refining Co.
WestRock