USA: Database Improves Access to Yard Cleanup Information

Residents of north Tacoma and Ruston can now do a simple online search to find out if their yards were part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund cleanup of Asarco smelter contaminated yards.

Over the past year, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) worked with EPA to build the Areawide Remediation Environmental Information System (AREIS). The online database provides quick access to arsenic and lead soil sampling results and cleanup reports for most of the residential properties within the Superfund site.

AREIS greatly improves the public’s access to important data about their yards,” said EPA project manager Kevin Rochlin. “In the past, we would have to copy and mail paper files or have people come to our Ruston office.

Ecology project manager Marian Abbett noted, “This was a great opportunity for collaboration. We are two different agencies, but we serve the same communities, and it helps to have cleanup information in one place.”

The former Asarco copper smelter sat on the border of Ruston and north Tacoma. Emissions from the facility contaminated a 1,000-square-mile area of surface soils with arsenic and lead. Neighborhoods within the Superfund site, closer to the smelter, had among the highest levels of contamination.

After nearly 20 years of cleaning up yards, EPA is nearly done, though some recent cleanups do not have records loaded into the database yet. Superfund cleanup began in 1993. Only the yards with soil that contained at least 230 parts per million (ppm) of arsenic qualified for cleanup.

In 2013, Ecology will begin offering cleanup for properties within the Superfund site that did not qualify for EPA’s program.

The state will also offer soil sampling and cleanup outside of the Superfund site, in the next most contaminated areas of the Tacoma Smelter Plume.


Dredging Today Staff, October 18, 2012