Tacoma Smelter Plume Yard Program progress

Steady movement forward

We are breaking ground, removing dirt, and moving forward on cleanup of 39 yards in north Tacoma, and 16 yards on Vashon-Maury Island. This work is part of Ecology’s larger efforts to address soil contamination left behind by the former Asarco smelter.

For nearly 100 years, the former Asarco Company operated a copper smelter in north Tacoma. Air pollution from the smelter settled on surface soils over more than 1,000 square miles of the Puget Sound. Arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals are still in the soil as a result of this pollution.

Map of North Tacoma showing the locations of completed yard cleanups, and those planned for 2018, clustered west of Pearl St & north of 46th

We have been working on soil replacement in Tacoma since 2013. Our work has been focused in Area 1 and 2 of the Study Area. The Study Area is colored green.

Ecology’s Yard Program is offering soil replacement to the most highly contaminated yards. To date, we have found 1,186 yards that qualify for the program. We have completed soil replacement on 224 of those yards in the Tacoma area (see map), and 245 yards in our Yard Program Service Area. Our Yard Program Service Area includes parts of North Tacoma, Ruston and the southern end of Vashon-Maury Island.

Work underway

Our funding was put on hold when a capital budget was not passed during the 2017 legislative session. As a result, last year we scaled back, and worked on a small group of 17 yards in Tacoma. In early 2018, the capital budget passed, freeing up funding to continue work.

This year we are working on 39 yards in the Tacoma area. We break the work into groups of yards. The largest group is 25 yards located in Area 2 of the study area (see map). The remaining 14 yards are located outside of the study area. To date, yards that we worked on outside of the study area in Tacoma have levels of arsenic over the EPA action level and are funded by the EPA.

If you live in Area 2, 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 they 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. Construction in this area will likely start in mid-July. We hope to start work on Vashon-Maury Island in the fall of 2018.


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.