Tacoma Smelter Plume: 2016 Yard Program Construction Update

September marks the fast approaching arrival of fall, and a halfway point for this season’s Yard Program work in the Tacoma Smelter Plume.  This year we will be working through the winter, but the sunny, fall days in September have given us lots to be cheerful about. The good weather has helped keep our contractors on pace replacing soil in residential yards. As we near the end of September, we are wrapping up soil replacement on Group 3 (21 yards) and beginning construction on Group 5 (10 yards) (see map). We removed soil on half of the residential yards in Group 4 (50 yards) and are on track to finish construction on these properties by February 2017.  

Prioritizing work on yards with the highest risk

An excavator in front of a fenced-off house with a bare dirt yard.

Heavy equipment in front of a yard receiving soil replacement.

This year, we are mostly working on yards within the Study Area (see map). However, ten (Group 5 on map) of the 81 yards scheduled for this year are located outside of the Study Area. These properties have the highest levels of soil contamination that we have found within the plume (arsenic over 230 parts per million).

The yards that qualify for soil replacement may appear to be randomly scattered throughout the Yard Program service area. However, we are prioritizing these yards because the levels of arsenic or lead pose a higher risk than other yards. The soil replacement work on these ten yards is partially funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Working with hundreds of property owners each year…

Soil was replaced south of 46th and west of Orchard, and north of 46th further west.

A map of properties receiving soil replacement in 2016.

We are working with nearly 300 property owners at any one time.  Each year, we continue to communicate with the previous year’s participants, work with residents currently receiving soil replacement, and plan with residents for next year’s construction. All this planning allows us to remove and replace soil on 80-100 properties annually. For more information on our soil replacement sequence you can go to our Yard Program Updates page.

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.

Follow our yard cleanup work:

Big stacks of sod.

Stacked sod awaiting placement.

Worker laying sod.

The contractor crew laying down sod.

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 Crescent.Calimpong@ecy.wa.gov.

Questions about the soil in your yard?

If you live in north Tacoma, we may have sampling results for your yard.  To check, visit our online database.  If you do not find results for your yard, you can sign up for free soil sampling by contacting the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department at (253) 798-3503 or DirtAlert@tpchd.org.