Public hearing will give Islanders a chance to weigh in on Asarco cleanup plan

State officials will hold a public hearing next week to discuss plans to clean up residential yards that test high in arsenic and lead in the most contaminated parts of the Arsarco smelter plume — a swath that includes all of Maury and southern Vashon Island.

The public hearing will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, at McMurray Middle School. The presentation begins at 7 p.m. An initial mailing by the state had the wrong date in it.

The state Ecology Department's far-reaching cleanup plan will entail a neighborhood-by-neighborhood sampling effort in Ruston, parts of Tacoma, University Place, Maury Island and southern Vashon Island — those places considered most contaminated within the 1,000-acre Tacoma Smelter Plume, the state's largest contaminated site.

The sampling will be voluntary, as will any remediation the state recommends, said Hannah Aoyagi, an outreach and education specialist in the Ecology Department's Toxics Cleanup Program. All told, state officials said, there are approximately 2,400 residences on Maury, in the Burton area and on Vashon Island south of S.W. 264th Street that fall within the area of greatest concern and that may warrant both sampling and remediation.

State funding for the massive cleanup comes from a settlement Asarco made when it filed for bankruptcy in 2005. The state received $188 million in settlement funds and expects to spend about $64 million of that on its yard cleanup program, the centerpiece of its Tacoma Smelter Plume project.

At Wednesday's hearing, state officials plan to present details of the project, get feedback about their approach and answer questions. The cleanup plan, however, is still being designed, Aoyagi said, and comments from residents will help the state shape the final project.

"We're looking for feedback," she said. "There may be things we haven't thought about."

The public can comment on the plan in writing until Dec. 20. To comment or to get more information, visit the Ecology Department's website, which includes detailed information about the Tacoma Smelter Plume.


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