Soil Removal Under Way in Washington Parks
Arsenic- and lead-contaminated soil is being cleaned up at several parks in two counties. A settlement has allowed the Department of Ecology to expand its Soil Safety Program to include parks, camps, and public multi-family housing.
The Washington Department of Ecology started a new round of park cleanups this week that will see arsenic- and lead-contaminated soils removed from play areas at parks in King and Pierce counties. The agency announced the play areas being cleaned up are at Dottie Harper in Burien, McMicken Heights and Sunset Playfields in SeaTac, Lake Grove in Federal Way, Dockton on Vashon Island, and American Lake and Kiwanis in Lakewood. Contamination levels in the parks are not high enough to cause immediate concern, but there is a long-term health risk for children.
Soil sampling done in 2010 confirmed the presence of arsenic and lead contamination from a former Asarco smelter in Tacoma, according to the department's news release. "We have a very tight timeline," said Ecology's cleanup coordinator, John Zinza, who is overseeing the contractors. "Grass must be seeded by mid-October in order to survive the winter, and rain can make soil work more difficult."
The funds to do the work come from a settlement with Asarco that allowed Ecology to expand its Soil Safety Program to include parks, camps, and public multi-family housing; the program originally covered school and child care play areas. "Every single park cleanup project protects more children in South King and Pierce counties from toxic chemicals," said state Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D–Des Moines, the prime sponsor of the original soil safety legislation. "This program is an investment in the health and safety of future generations."