Monday, July 31, 2017

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Reduced Services for Residents

Picture of children playing in dirtWe are reducing some services to residents

Because a state capital budget was not approved, Ecology did not receive any new funding. We are using the money we didn’t spend fully from last biennium to fund our program. We must cut back on the services we offer to the residents of the Tacoma Smelter Plume area for this next year to fit this remaining budget.
Throughout the plume area, soil sampling will be limited or temporarily stopped. We will not replace soil on 42 yards and one park play area this next year as planned. This will have a domino effect - residents further down the list will have to wait longer to have their soil replaced. Also, the health departments must reduce their education and outreach work. If a capital budget is not approved in the next 6-12 months, we will need staff restructuring, potential layoffs, and a complete stop of all services in July 2018.

Specifically, we will no longer be able to:

  • Replace soil on 42 yards and one park play area which were planned for this year
  • Complete planning for soil replacement on over 100 properties
  • Sample soil for new residents in the Yard Program service area
  • Sample soil on Vashon-Maury Island
  • Fully fund Pierce and King County Health Departments to do healthy action outreach with residents and handwashing demonstrations in childcares and schools
  • Provide commercials to inform residents about the plume and healthy actions they can take
  • Fund Thurston County for outreach and education work

We will update you when we have more information

Ecology staff are working with the Pierce and King County Health Departments to provide the most cost efficient services and are still working out what we can provide. We will continue to update residents during this limited funding period on any further changes. To stay informed, you can:

The Tacoma Smelter Plume Project has dedicated funding but we depend on the capital budget

The funding for this project is from a bankruptcy settlement with the ASARCO company. However, the money sits in the Cleanup Settlement Account which is a capital budget item. Every biennium the legislature must approve Ecology’s request to spend the funds. For 2017-2019, we requested nearly $24 million to provide full services in the plume area. This year, the capital budget was not passed, and we did not receive funding. We are currently using the money leftover from last biennium, about $4 million to fund our reduced services for one year. In 2018, we will request funding for our work through the last year of the 2017-2019 biennium cycle. If we do not receive additional funds, we will stop all services in the plume area in the fall of 2018.

Questions about the Yard Program?

Please call the project line at (360) 407-7688 and press 2 for Tacoma Smelter Plume, or email the Yard Program Outreach Coordinator at

The Yard Program cleans up arsenic and lead from the former Asarco smelter in Tacoma. It is a voluntary program that’s offered at no cost to the homeowner. This work is part of Ecology’s efforts to sample and replace contaminated soil in the Tacoma Smelter Plume. The plume is a 1,000 square-mile-area of arsenic and lead contamination from the former Asarco smelter in north Tacoma.

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