Ecol­ogy to clean smelter sites

The agency has iden­ti­fied 230 acres that are con­tam­i­nated with lead, ar­senic and mer­cury.

The Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Win­ters Her­ald Writer

EV­ERETT — The state De­part­ment of Ecol­ogy has spent the past 16 years clean­ing up the con­tam­i­na­tion left be­hind by the Ev­erett Smelter.

Much of that work has been fo­cused on the res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood near the smelter site and Le­gion Park.

With much of that work com­pleted or in progress, ef­forts are now mov­ing down the hill to the in­dus­trial wa­ter­front along the Sno­homish River.

The de­part­ment has iden­ti­fied 15 lo­ca­tions to­talling 230 acres that need to be cleaned up. Most of them are lo­cated be­tween East Marine View Drive and the river­bank. They are pri­mar­ily con­tam­i­nated with lead, ar­senic and mer­cury.

The most con­cen­trated area is the site of the for­mer cool­ing flue of the smelter, which stood in the cur­rent lo­ca­tion of the north­bound on-ramp lead­ing from East Marine View Drive onto High­way 529.

The other 14 sites were mostly af­fected by se­condary con­tam­i­na­tion: where dust from the smelter op­er­a­tions set­tled, where de­bris was stored, and where runoff took the pol­lu­tants down­hill.

“We’re hop­ing to ad­dress all those is­sues by re­mov­ing the source ma­te­rial and

pre­vent­ing the spread of con­tam­i­na­tion,” said San­dra Matthews, Ecol­ogy’s project man­ager for the cleanup.

The Ev­erett Smelter op­er­ated from 1892-1912. By 1913 the smelter had been dis­man­tled and the land sold off to de­vel­op­ers.

Asarco, the com­pany that even­tu­ally bought the as­sets of the smelter, sold the last of its prop­erty in 1936. Houses started go­ing up in the late 1930s and 1940s. By then, Ev­erett was bet­ter known as a town of sawmills, not smelt­ing.

It wasn’t un­til 1990 when

some­body found bags of con­cen­trated ar­senic tri­ox­ide buried in a back yard that peo­ple be­gan to be­come aware of the con­tam­i­na­tion un­der­neath.

“Peo­ple had for­got­ten that it was even there,” Matthews said. “Twenty years

is a long time, 50 years is even longer.”

Ecol­ogy has posted its cleanup plans for the low­land ar­eas on its web­site, and is ac­cept­ing pub­lic com­ments un­til Sept. 20.

Af­ter the com­ment pe­riod, the de­part­ment will move for­ward with an en­gi­neer­ing plan, and the first phys­i­cal work could be­gin within two years, Matthews said.

It would start with the for­mer site of the cool­ing flue, where the plan would be to re­move all the con­tam­i­nated ma­te­rial.

That might al­low the lower con­cen­tra­tions on the other site to dis­si­pate more quickly, ne­ces­si­tat­ing less cleanup at those sites. Ecol­ogy plans to mon­i­tor the sites af­ter cleanup to mea­sure the im­pact.

The cleanup work is be­ing paid for out of a $188 mil­lion bank­ruptcy set­tle­ment with Asarco, the com­pany that owns the as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties of the for­mer smelter.

About $34 mil­lion was ear­marked for the cleanup. Ecol­ogy has about $7 mil­lion left, most of that re­served for the low­land cleanup.

Up on top of the hill, it has com­pleted the cleanup in Le­gion Park and on about 300 north Ev­erett prop­er­ties over the last 16 years.

The de­part­ment has re­quested more fund­ing from the Leg­is­la­ture to help fin­ish the job, Matthews said.

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