Tacoma Smelter Plume: Ecology begins soil cleanup on Vashon-Maury Island

garden behind fencing, trees in background.

Gardens are an area of the yard where people often come in contact with soil.

On Monday, Ecology will start digging up contaminated soil at six yards on Vashon-Maury Island. This work is part of Ecology's Residential Yard Sampling and Cleanup Program. The program cleans up arsenic and lead from the former Asarco copper smelter in Tacoma.

Since 2012, we have sampled over 600 yards on the southern half of Vashon-Maury Island. As a result, we have identified 40 homes on the island that qualify for the soil cleanup program.

Digging up soil in gardens, play areas and lawns

forested area, lush ground with plants and dirt, various trees and building in background.

Ecology does not remove soil in forested areas because it would disturb the roots and stability of the trees.

Designing a cleanup plan for a yard on Vashon can present unique challenges. For example, many homes on Vashon have large lots, up to 10 acres in size. Ecology can only replace soil on up to a quarter acre per yard.

To select the cleanup area, we prioritize where the homeowner comes in contact with soil often. This could include areas such as:

  • Gardens
  • Child play areas
  • Lawn areas

Some areas are out of reach for cleanup

two people talking near a yard, and pointing to a chart in one of their hands.

Staff take measurements and photos to create a soil cleanup plan.

Many yards on the island have forested areas, steep slopes, septic systems, garden sheds and underground storage tanks. Ecology does not remove soil in or near these areas because it would impact the stability of these features. 

Fortunately, we often don't find these features near gardens, lawns and child play areas. So, on most yards we can design a cleanup plan to replace soil in the areas where the homeowner is likely to come in contact with soil often.

Follow our yard cleanup work in 2014

Questions about the yard cleanup work?

Please call the project hotline at (360) 407-7688 and press 2 for Tacoma Smelter Plume, or email email me at Jill.Jacobson@ecy.wa.gov.