Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Ecology begins soil cleanup on Vashon-Maury Island

By Jill Jacobson, Outreach Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Gardens are an area of the yard where people often
 come in contact with soil.
On Monday, Ecology will start digging up contaminated soil at six yards on Vashon-Maury Island. This work is part of Ecology's Residential Yard Sampling and Cleanup Program. The program cleans up arsenic and lead from the former Asarco copper smelter in Tacoma.
Since 2012, we have sampled over 600 yards on the southern half of Vashon-Maury Island. As a result, we have identified 40 homes on the island that qualify for the soil cleanup program.

Ecology does not remove soil in forested areas because
it would disturb the roots and stability of the trees.

Digging up soil in gardens, play areas and lawns ...

Designing a cleanup plan for a yard on Vashon can present unique challenges. For example, many homes on Vashon have large lots, up to 10 acres in size. Ecology can only replace soil on up to a quarter acre per yard.

To select the cleanup area, we prioritize where the homeowner comes in contact with soil often. This could include areas such as:
Staff take measurements and photos to create a soil
 cleanup plan.
  • Gardens
  • Child play areas
  • Lawn areas

Some areas are out of reach for cleanup ...

Many yards on the island have forested areas, steep slopes, septic systems, garden sheds and underground storage tanks. Ecology does not remove soil in or near these areas because it would impact the stability of these features. 

Fortunately, we often don't find these features near gardens, lawns and child play areas. So, on most yards we can design a cleanup plan to replace soil in the areas where the homeowner is likely to come in contact with soil often.

Follow our yard cleanup work in 2014 ...

Questions about the yard cleanup work?

Please call the project hotline at (360) 407-7688 and press 2 for Tacoma Smelter Plume, or email email me at

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