Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Finding out what’s in your soil

By Amy Hargrove, Soil Safety Program Coordinator

I got a comment on my last blog from a parent asking what they could do to test their soil and be sure their children were safe playing outside. I have two young boys at home and I understand wanting to make sure your children are safe, healthy, and happy.

Are you inside the Tacoma Smelter Plume?

You can check our interactive map. There is a search function on the left side of the page, where you can type in your street address and zip code. Any part of the plume could have arsenic contamination, but the chances are higher in the darker zones.

Note: Not all properties inside the plume have soil arsenic contamination. Levels can depend on when your home was built and how much the soil has been disturbed (by landscaping or other activities).

Sampling your soil

If you live in Pierce County, your local health department has a free program for residences. Just call or e-mail and they can schedule a time to come out to your home and take a few samples from parts of the yard your family uses the most.

Ecology considers arsenic levels above 20 parts per million to be “elevated”. The health department can talk to you about your soil levels and different options for covering bare soils to reduce exposure.

If you live outside of Pierce County, you can sample your own soil using our brochure. You don’t need any special tools, just a trowel or shovel, stainless steel bowl and spoon, some Ziploc™ bags, and a permanent marker. You will have to pay the lab costs yourself—about $30 per sample.

Actions to take no matter where you live

Ecology is concerned about arsenic and lead in soils within the Tacoma Smelter Plume, but there can be soil contaminants wherever you live. For example, any older home could have lead-based paint that has flaked off into soil in the yard. As a precaution, there are several things you can do:

  • Have the whole family wash their hands after being outside, and before meals.

  • Start a shoes-off policy in your home, or at least use doormats at every door.

  • Vacuum and damp-dust your home often—dust can contain all kinds of contaminants.

If you have questions about sampling or for a hard copy of the sampling brochure, please contact us:

No comments: