Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tacoma Smelter Plume: How do we tackle such a large cleanup site?

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Map showing the arsenic high-level zone around the Tacoma smelterThis blog follows up on my recap of our public meeting in Tacoma last week.

At over 1,000 square miles, the Tacoma Smelter is our state’s largest cleanup site. It is also one of our more complex sites because it impacts places where people live and where children play.

A $94 million settlement from Asarco will cover a great deal of cleanup work, but it’s not enough to clean up all the contaminated soil. So, we need to prioritize our work.

Protecting children

Our Soil Safety Program has already sampled over 1,000 play areas and cleaned up over 100 schools and childcares. Now, another $10 million is slated for continuing that work and cleaning up parks and camps, too.

We are also proposing putting $10 million into education and outreach over the next 10 years. Most of this would go to local health departments, with a strong focus on reaching children and the adults that care for them.

Making yards safer

An investment of $64 million should be enough to address the entire "high zone." This is the area shown on the map here, where arsenic levels could be over 100 parts per million (ppm).

We propose offering free soil sampling for every residence in this area. Yards with over 100 ppm average arsenic would qualify for free soil cleanup. Everyone else will receive advice on how to lower their exposure to contaminated soil.

Worst first

Some areas of the plume have very high levels of arsenic and lead. Our cleanup plan would tackle those areas first. This means probably starting in neighborhoods in the Superfund site, where we know yards still have high contamination. Vashon-Maury Island is another priority.

To learn more about the cleanup plan, please visit our public comment period webpage.

No comments: