The Asarco smelter operated in Everett from 1894–1912, but the contamination wasn't discovered until 1990. Smelter operations left high levels of arsenic and lead on the former smelter property. Contaminated particles from the smokestacks settled over the surrounding area. From 1999–2007, we managed cleanup of the most highly contaminated areas, including the former smelter property.
The Everett smelter, built by Puget Sound Reduction Company, operated from 1894 to 1912. ASARCO Incorporated (Asarco) purchased the property in 1903 and operated the smelter until 1912 when it was demolished. The property was sold in various parcels, with the last parcel owned by Asarco sold in 1936. Homes were built on many of the parcels. The highway interchange between East Marine View Drive and State Route 529 was built across the old smelter site in the 1950s.
The contamination was discovered in 1990. A local company notified us that they found elevated concentrations of arsenic and lead in the soil and groundwater during an environmental assessment of their property. We conducted additional investigations of the surrounding area. The soil at the Everett smelter site was found to be contaminated with arsenic, lead, cadmium, and other metals. In some areas, arsenic and lead were present above state cleanup standards.
The site includes the industrial area along the Snohomish River. It is divided into the upland area and the lowland area. The upland area has residential, light commercial, and recreational use. The lowland area is used for industrial activities.
In 1990, we began working with Asarco to investigate and clean up the site. A Cleanup Action Plan for the upland area was finalized in 1999 after extensive discussion with the Everett community.
Asarco declared bankruptcy in 2005. We filed a claim in bankruptcy court for Asarco’s environmental liability for the Everett smelter site and other sites in Washington.
Working with the Everett Housing Authority, we have cleaned up the part of the site with the highest levels of contamination. However, cleanup was stopped in 2007 due to lack of funding.
In December 2009, we received a bankruptcy settlement of $188 million from Grupo Mexico, a large Mexican mining company that brought Asarco out of bankruptcy. We set aside $44 million of this settlement for the Everett smelter site cleanup and an additional $10 million was used to repay past costs on the site.
We have developed a multi-year plan to clean up properties within the Everett smelter site. We will clean up the uplands area by removing contaminated soil that is accessible to people (not under pavement or buildings). This cleanup involves removing contaminated soil from residential yards, replacing it with clean soil, and restoring the landscaping. Visit the Residential cleanup and sampling page for more information.
The lowlands area of the site is being cleaned up on a separate schedule. Visit the lowlands cleanup page for more information.