EPA orders Asarco to finish smelter cleanup

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday ordered Asarco to complete its cleanup of contaminated sediment near its Ruston copper smelter in Tacoma.
The order calls for the financially troubled company – which closed the mill 17 years ago – to cap 18 acres of contaminated marine sediment and to dredge about 151/2 acres of the Yacht Basin in Commencement Bay, or face penalties.
Eighteen months of negotiations between Asarco, headquartered in Phoenix, and the federal government ended in January without an agreement on how to proceed with the cleanup.
The sediments are laden with arsenic and lead and have contributed to Commencement Bay’s listing as a federal Superfund site.
So far, Asarco has spent $180 million to clean up the smelter area, but it is liable for $60 million more in projected cleanup costs, according to the EPA.
On Monday, EPA officials approved plans for a $12.5 million cleanup of Tacoma’s Middle Waterway.