For nearly a century, the old Asarco copper smelter in Ruston blew plumes of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals over a 1,000-square-mile area.
Ongoing cleanup efforts, first by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and now the state Department of Ecology, have spanned the past 20 years. Most recently, Ecology has moved to test and clean up the soils in residential areas.
Starting next month, Ecology will clean the soil at North End’s Vassault Park. The agency has already cleaned soils at Titlow Park and Jane Clark Park.
Ecology plans to remove up to the top foot of soil from eight acres of Vassault’s playfields, which will be replaced by new topsoil.
Learn more about the park’s cleanup at a neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m., Monday, May 19 at the Kandle Park Police Station, 5140 N. 26th St. The baseball diamonds and soccer field will reopen in 2015.
The soil cleanup is paid for by a $95 million settlement from Asarco. The state cleanup level for arsenic is 20 parts per million. At Vassault Park, surface soils have tested at 90 parts per million for arsenic. Arsenic levels in some areas nearby are higher than 100 parts per million, according to an interactive map of contamination estimates at this Ecology website.
Soils from play areas at Point Defiance, Baltimore and Optimist parks will be replaced in the next two years, according to a mailing from the Department of Ecology.
Exposure to arsenic can cause cancer, and lead exposure can cause developmental delays in small children. If your property has soil contamination, Ecology suggests you take steps to protect yourself, your family and pets, such as leaving shoes outside and vacuuming at least once per week.
If you have questions or concerns, contact John Zinza at Ecology, 360-407-6249 or Roger Stanton with Metro Parks Tacoma, 253-305-1082.
For information about soil sampling, contact Glenn Rollins with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department at 253-798-3503. Information can also be found on Ecology’s Tacoma smelter plume website.