Tacoma Urbanist

Jan. 17, 2008 at 12:17am

Port Activities and Wood Stoves Designate Tacoma as *Non-Attainment* For Pollution

Yesterday, the Tacoma Daily Index reported on Tacoma's pollution problem both in terms of emissions and in perception to the city:

A designation by the federal Environmental Protection Agency that labels Tacoma and Pierce County as areas of poor air quality and with a high concentration of particles that contribute to adverse health effects has angered several Tacoma City Councilmembers, according to a discussion during yesterday's council study session at City Hall.

The designation was deemed to have the potential to harm Tacoma's image:

At issue for Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma and many councilmembers is whether a proposed boundary unfairly targets Tacoma and Pierce County, and fails to consider whether areas such as Federal Way and Gig Harbor should be included in the zone.
Still, the designation has added an unfavorable stigma to Tacoma's tongue-in-cheek "gritty city" moniker.
The article identifies two main sources identified 1) Port of Tacoma activities and 2) wood stoves in the South End.

Approximately 300 households have taken advantage of an offer to swap out wood stoves, which contribute to poor air quality. They also plan to look at ways to reduce diesel pollution from cargo ships and passenger buses.

The City of Tacoma appears to want to accelerate reduction of the pollution.  They have now placed the link on the front page of the City of Tacoma web site  to the Puget Sound Clean Agency which offers up to $2500 assistance to Tacoma and Marysville residents.


Although it is encouraging that government officials will now look at reducing "diesel pollution from cargo ships," the Port of Tacoma could have long ago raised their standard from ships using the Port.  It is the Port not the City which has jurisdiction over ships.

The Port imposes millions of dollars of taxes on Tacoma residents, yet has significantly contributed to Tacoma being the only Washington city to fail the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency "non-attainment designation."  Yes, the Port has taken some actions to clean up their emissions but it is not enough especially considering their expansion proposal.  They needs to ramp up their efforts if progress is going to be made.

The "non-attainment" designation is harmful in many ways as it signifies that the air Tacomans breathe is unhealthy and plays into the worst ongoing stereotype about Tacoma.

With that said, Tacoma City officials deserve credit for selling off the steam plant rather than allowing it to become a regional garbage burning center as once proposed.  Here a April 8, 2003 fine the steam plant once received from the EPA.

The "non-attainment" for pollution is another reason the City of Tacoma should object to the placement of two more large cargo ships at Sperry Dock.  See Walk the Waterfront group.

comments [2]  |  posted under tacoma, washington


by Jake on 1/17/2008 @ 10:55am
While I haven't been following this issue to closely I must say there is a problem in Tacoma. On any cold night you can smell the strong stinch of smoke on the Eastside, in the South End, South Tacoma, and up on the Hill. I am sure North Tacoma has it too. I never really nocticed it in years past but I do now. It sets off a trigger in my head that says "the air should no smell like this". That being said I have also smelled the stinch in the air in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. It is not just us. I should have the right to smell clean air all year round 24/7. The city and EPA should do what ever it takes to make it happen.

by Erik on 1/17/2008 @ 10:59am
When I first moved to Tacoma, the aroma was pretty strong from the pulp mills. Now that is considerably less. However, seeing pollution issue for Tacoma is disconcerning.