Asarco contaminated soil removal begins in North Tacoma yards

The Washington State Department of Ecology began digging up arsenic-contaminated soils at three homes in north Tacoma this week.

Locals can expect to see increased truck traffic along North Pearl Street during weekday work hours through mid-October. Neighbors have been notified and work sites will have information for the public. The Washington State Department of Ecology expects to finish 55 yard cleanups, including six on Vashon Island, during the next three months as part of the continuing Tacoma Smelter Plume cleanup. Close to 100 cleanups are slated for the 2015 construction season.

This is the start of a multi-year program to clean up widespread contamination from the former Asarco smelter in north Tacoma and Ruston. Over 1,000 yards may have high enough arsenic levels to qualify for cleanup, and it may take eight or more years to complete that work, according to Washington State Department of Ecology officials. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is testing soil from thousands of yards for arsenic to determine which ones qualify for cleanup, which is free to homeowners through the Residential Yard Sampling and Cleanup Program.

The program is funded from a $95 million settlement with Asarco, which operated the former Tacoma copper smelter near Ruston. Emissions from the Asarco facility contaminated a 1,000-square-mile area of surface soils with arsenic and lead in Pierce, King and Thurston counties, according to Washington State Department of Ecology officials. Arsenic and lead are toxic metals and can pose a health risk, especially to children. Contamination levels in soils are not high enough to pose an immediate threat, but there is a long-term health risk from regular contact with soils, according to Washington State Department of Ecology officials.

More information is available online here.


To read the Tacoma Daily Index’s complete and comprehensive coverage of cleanup efforts related to the former Asarco copper smelter site in Tacoma, click on the following links: