VASHON ISLAND, Wash. -- They call it knock and talk. Washington Department of Ecology workers go door to door on Vashon-Maury Island asking for permission to test the soil of some 700 front and back yards. This time of year, when many of the vacation home owners are back in their winter homes, it’s a lot more knocking than talking.
The team is taking the first steps of a major cleanup of soils on the island contaminated by the old Asarco smelter. They expect at least 100 homes to test above the acceptable levels for arsenic and lead that blanketed the area for a century of operations at the Tacoma area smelter directly across Puget Sound.
Ecology officials say the wind blew the contaminants from the giant Asarco smoke stack for miles in every direction. If they identify areas with elevated levels, they will offer to remove the soil, replace it and landscape it just like they have in dozens of homes in other affected areas.
The cleanup won’t cost residents a dime. Asarco is paying picking up the tab after agreeing to a $94.6 million bankruptcy settlement.