Arsenic and lead in soil puts people at risk, especially children. We provide free advice for developers and property owners on how to sample soil for arsenic and lead contamination and to complete cleanup.
Development is a great time to take care of contaminated soil and reduce risks for future residents. Arsenic and lead from the Tacoma smelter plume are usually in the top six inches of soil. Digging and grading, a part of development, can also be part of the cleanup.
We recently updated our Tacoma Smelter Plume Model Remedies Guidance. We updated some information and links to additional resources, and created a new chapter on how to sample in natural areas.
How do I know if the soil is contaminated?
Ecology has Tacoma Smelter Plume Model Remedies Guidance for sampling your soils. You do not need special equipment or expertise. Samples cost around $30-$40 each to analyze for arsenic and lead. The number of samples depends on the size of the area, past uses, and how you plan to develop it.
How do I clean up my land?
Ecology strongly recommends digging up soils and sending them to a landfill. This cleanup method best protects human health and is permanent. In some cases, you can cap over soils with cleaner soils or pavement. Where arsenic and lead levels are fairly low, you can mix in cleaner soils to dilute the contamination.
See Ecology’s Tacoma Smelter Plume Model Remedies Guidance for more details on how to do cleanups. For more information about cleanups, please contact Eva.Barber@ecy.wa.gov at 360-407-7094.
I need Ecology approval of my cleanup
If a local government permit office or lender requires Ecology’s written approval of your cleanup, you must enter the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP). Also, a future buyer might want to see Ecology’s written approval of your cleanup. The VCP provides technical assistance and a written opinion. Getting written approvals via the VCP is free for projects with Tacoma smelter plume contamination only.
Protecting workers and the environment
State law requires employers to protect their workers, who could be harmed by contaminated soils. Construction sites must also prevent dust or stormwater runoff from leaving the site. Our fact sheets have more information: