Tacoma Smelter Plume Yard Program

Work on Vashon-Maury Island moves ahead

If you live in the north end of Tacoma or the southern tip of Vashon-Maury Island, you've likely heard about the Tacoma Smelter Plume. However, if you just moved here, the following information may be new.

The Asarco Smokestack on the hill above Ruston Way

The former ASARCO smelter stack. Image courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library Northwest Digital Collections.

For nearly 100 years a smelter operated in the small town of Ruston. Air emissions from the smelter were carried by the wind to areas in King, Pierce and Thurston County. These air emissions contained heavy metals including arsenic and lead, which settled on surface soils. The highest levels of soil contamination are seen closest to the former smelter and decrease with distance.

Soil replacement work

Through our Residential Yard Sampling and Cleanup Program, we're working on 14 yards and a community park in the southern end of Vashon-Maury Island. Work started on the first yard in early March 2019.

If you live in this neighborhood, you will likely see construction-related traffic. You may notice orange fencing, closed sidewalks, and Ecology’s Yard Program banner. The contractor usually works on a few yards at a time, which means workers may travel between yards with equipment. Construction can be noisy, and it is important to pay attention to trucks and large machinery that are coming and going. This construction will likely go through July 2019.

Please call us if you see:

  • Dust in the air from construction.
  • Soil on the sidewalk or street.
  • Mud or water running off the property.
  • Dump trucks without covers.

Soil sampling

If you live on the southern end of Vashon-Maury Island it is likely that your property has already been sampled. To find out if your property has soil sampling results, go to our public database and enter your address. Soil sampling is for existing, residential properties. If you are a new homeowner, and your soil hasn’t been sampled, you can fill out an access agreement and get your yard sampled, too. Soil sampling is free and completely voluntary.

Future soil replacement

Currently, 53 properties qualify for soil replacement on Vashon-Maury Island. By the end of 2019, we will have removed and replaced soil on 35 of these properties. Unfortunately, we are not able to remove and replace soil on all the properties that qualify. Some properties have steep slopes or are located in areas we don’t work, like forests or vacant lots. And, sometimes, we are unable to coordinate with the property owner. At the end of the program, we will offer one last opportunity for residents with qualifying properties to participate in our Yard Program.

Map of Vashon-Maury Island showing the locations of properties that will have soil replaced along the southern end of the island

By the end of 2019, we will have removed and replaced soil on 35 properties on Vashon-Maury Island.



Soil left behind

The main objective of the Tacoma Smelter Plume project is to reduce human health risks from arsenic and lead in soils. Soil replacement is focused on the high-use areas around homes and in areas where children play. Soil contamination may remain in undeveloped and forested areas. It is important to practice healthy actions like taking shoes off at the door and washing hands after working or playing in the dirt no matter where you live within the Tacoma Smelter Plume.


If you have any questions about the Yard Program or construction in your neighborhood, please call our project line 360-407-7688 x 2. We are always available for questions and are happy to help you find the information you need.

Follow our yard cleanup work: