Clean-up of arsenic, lead from homeowners' yards under way near old Tacoma Smelter

Tacoma -- The state Department of Ecology launched a clean-up program to remove arsenic and lead from lawns at more than a thousand homes in Tacoma.

Crews are removing as much as 18 inches of soil from lawns that are contaminated from the plume created by the old Asarco copper smelter while it was still operational. The smelter had operated for about 100 years in Tacoma and its plume deposited arsenic and lead over 1,000 square miles, the Department of Ecology said.

The Department of Ecology is testing 7,000 properties for contaminates.  The program is voluntary.  The homeowner can decide to refuse to have their soil removed.

The clean-up could take seven to eight years at a cost of $64 million.  It's paid for from a $94.5 million settlement with Asarco.  Crews come in, remove the soil and replant a new lawn.

The soil is contaminated with lead and arsenic.  Lead has been found to cause developmental issues in children and arsenic could cause cancer.  However, the Department of Ecology says the contaminates are not an immediate threat.