Department of Ecology News Release - May 18, 2016

More Tacoma yards get soil replaced this summer
Public meetings focus on next phase of sampling, soil replacement work

The latest round of yard cleanups start this summer in the Tacoma Smelter Plume.
The latest round of yard cleanups start this summer in the Tacoma Smelter Plume.

TACOMA – This summer, the Department of Ecology will continue the multi-year project to clean up yards contaminated decades ago by pollution from an old copper smelter in Ruston.

This latest round of work will focus on digging up, removing and replacing soil at about 80 North Tacoma yards.

The former Asarco Company smelter released air pollution for almost 100 years. Arsenic, lead and other heavy metals settled on the land over 1,000 square miles in Pierce, King and Thurston counties. The contaminants are still in the soil in the area now known as the Tacoma Smelter Plume.

Three upcoming meetings will focus on voluntary yard sampling and replacement, cleanup at parks and childcare facilities, technical assistance, and continuing outreach and education in the Tacoma Smelter Plume.

Interested local residents can ask questions and talk with staff from local health departments and the Washington Department of Ecology at the meetings May 23 and 24 in Tacoma and June 14 on Vashon-Maury Island. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department staff will be available at the Tacoma meetings. King County Health Department staff will be on hand at the Vashon-Maury Island meeting.

Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program staff and the health departments started working on the smelter plume cleanup in 2006. Since then, more than 1,000 schools, parks, childcares, camps, and multi-family housing play areas have been sampled. Ecology replaced soil or posted signs at 86 childcares, 25 schools and 24 parks. In 2015, soil was replaced at Optimist Park and Baltimore Park. In early 2016, soil was replaced at Fort Nisqually in Point Defiance Park.

Staff also will talk about the residential yard sampling and cleanup program, which Ecology launched in 2013. Since then, nearly 3,000 yards have been sampled – 2,334 in the Tacoma area and 617 on Vashon-Maury Island. So far, about 1,100 yards qualify for soil replacement. Ecology has completed soil replacement on 126 yards in Tacoma and 21 on Vashon-Maury Island.

Tacoma Smelter Plume cleanup work is funded by the state of Washington’s share of a 2009 bankruptcy settlement with Asarco. Funds also are used to clean up pollution caused by a smelter in Everett and at some mines in the state.

Public meetings


Seth Preston, Ecology communications, 360-407-6848, @ecologyWA