In late 2009, the state received a $94 million settlement from Asarco for the future costs of cleaning up the Tacoma Smelter Plume — a 1,000 square mile area with arsenic and lead contamination from the former Asarco smelter in Ruston.
This spring we got the news that we’d have $3.9 million to jumpstart our work over the next year, starting July 1, 2010. Luckily, we had soil cleanup and outreach programs already up and running, so we were ready with a plan for what to do next!
Off to a sprintWe started by expanding the popular Soil Safety Program. This program provides free soil sampling and cleanup for school and childcare play areas. Now we can do the same for public parks, camps, and public multifamily housing.
With new funding, we can continue outreach and education about plume contamination without taking away scarce tax dollars from other cleanup work. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Public Health—Seattle & King County run great “Dirt Alert” programs targeting children and adults, and providing many services to their communities.
As the Soil Safety Program coordinator, I’ve had a busy fall! I have been working with our sampling contractor to line up access to parks, camps, and public housing in King County. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is already doing sampling at Tacoma and University Place parks. Results coming back from the lab will then help us plan cleanups where they are needed.
The marathon aheadThough we’re focused on sampling right now, there is an important long term goal—to protect all communities from this widespread Tacoma Smelter Plume contamination. To do that, we’ll have to spend every dollar wisely. We expect to physically clean up the most highly contaminated areas, but also educate every resident about what they can do to protect themselves.
As this project moves forward, we’ll share more details about our long-term plans, while keeping you up to date with our current work!