Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Park cleanups underway this week

By Hannah Aoyagi, Tacoma Smelter Plume Project, Toxics Cleanup Program

The Soil Safety Program will be busy this fall season, cleaning up play areas at seven parks in a six week span.  We are removing soils contaminated with arsenic and lead from the former Asarco smelter in north Tacoma.

The parks are:
  • Dottie Harper (Burien)
  • Sunset Playfields (SeaTac)
  • McMicken Heights (SeaTac)
  • Lake Grove (Federal Way)
  • Dockton (Vashon Island) - pictured here
  • American Lake (Lakewood)
  • Kiwanis (Lakewood)
While the arsenic and lead levels we have found at parks do not pose an immediate threat, there is a long-term risk, especially for children. For more information about contaminated soils and risk, see our blog post on Dottie Harper Park from earlier this year.

Why clean up only the play areas at parks?

Play areas are generally where children spend the most time.  We talk to parks staff about where they see kids playing and coming into contact with dirt.  So, a "play area" could be the dirt under picnic tables or a grassy field next to the playground.

Also, for many parks, the space outside of the designated play areas is wooded.  Because soil removal damages tree roots, we can't do much cleanup in the woods.  It's okay to play there.  We just recommend healthy actions like washing hands after playing in the dirt, and taking off shoes before entering the house. 

More about the soil contamination...

Read our news release about the park cleanups.  Visit the Tacoma Smelter Plume website for more information about the 1,000 square mile area impacted by air emissions from the former Asarco smelter.

We will post more blogs on our cleanup progress and other Tacoma Smelter Plume work!

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