Department of Ecology News Release - June 16, 2014

Major cleanup starts soon at Tacoma's Vassault Park
Contaminated soil at playfields will be replaced

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology will begin replacing arsenic-contaminated soils in early July at Tacoma’s Vassault Park playfields.

The cleanup, covering 8.5 acres and at a cost of $2.5 million, will be the largest in the history of Ecology’s Soil Safety Program. The program provides free soil sampling and cleanup for park, school, and childcare play areas.

In related cleanup work, Ecology will replace soils in 50 residential yards in neighborhoods north of Vassault Park. A public meeting about that work will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, in the cafeteria at Point Defiance Elementary, 4330 N. Visscher in Tacoma.

Work at Vassault will run through October and the playfields will remain closed until summer of 2015 to protect the new grass. The tennis courts and playground will remain open throughout the project. The Sound to Narrows race finishes at Vassault Park. Following construction, Metro Parks Tacoma will assess whether staging for the 2015 race can be adjusted at Vassault or temporarily relocated.

Tacoma Metro Parks is adding $200,000 to the project, taking advantage of the construction work to make crucial drainage fixes before new soils go in.

“Coordinating needed improvements to the drainage system at Vassault with Ecology’s cleanup work is just common sense,” said Metro Parks Board president Tim Reid. “The public benefit of our agencies taking time to work together for the common good of the community provides great cost savings versus resolving our mutual issues independently.”

Funding comes from a $95 million settlement with Asarco, which operated the former Tacoma copper smelter near Ruston. Emissions from the facility contaminated a 1,000-square-mile area of surface soils with arsenic and lead. 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. 

More information is available about cleanup work, arsenic in soils and impacted areas.



Hannah Aoyagi, Toxics Cleanup Program, 360-407-6790, @ecologyWA