Delta neighbors may see tainted yards cleaned up sooner

Capital budgets proposed by the House and Senate would quicken dealing with the smelter’s legacy.

Residents from Everett’s Delta neighborhood made a trip in January to Olympia to advocate for cleanup related to the former Asarco smelter site. (Delta Neighborhood Association)

Residents from Everett’s Delta neighborhood made a trip in January to Olympia to advocate for cleanup related to the former Asarco smelter site. (Delta Neighborhood Association)

OLYMPIA — Lawmakers have signaled that they want to pick up the pace for getting rid of toxin-laden soils from properties in Everett’s Delta neighborhood.

Several million dollars would be earmarked in the next state capital budget to expedite cleanup of yards tainted with pollutants which are a frustrating reminder of a once mighty smelter.

The proposed House plan released Monday sets aside $5.49 million to deal with the legacy of contamination from the Asarco smelter site, which operated in the city from 1894 to 1912 near the intersection of North Broadway and E. Marine View Drive. The contaminants weren’t discovered until 1990.

On Wednesday, the Senate budget proposal came out and it contained a smaller amount. The $3.2 million proposed in the Senate budget would be enough for about 40 homes. Budget writers in the two chambers will need to negotiate a final figure.

“That’s great news,” said Mary Fosse, chairwoman of the Delta Neighborhood Association. “We hope that the final budget will reflect the urgency of the need for cleanup in the community.”

In January, she and other homeowners went to Olympia to meet with Everett Reps. June Robinson and Mike Sells, and Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, the chairman of the House Capital Budget Committee. They stressed the need to speed up the timeline for cleanups, which as of now could last another decade.

“We’re really appreciative of our representatives because they’ve obviously fought for us,” Fosse said.

When Asarco filed for bankruptcy, the state obtained a $188 million settlement for remediation of its messes in several Puget Sound communities. The deal directed $34 million to deal with damage caused by the Everett site.

Cydney Gillis, seen here June 15, 2018, was one of at least 150 homeowners awaiting remediation from the hazardous contaminants left by the Everett smelter in the city’s Delta neighborhood. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Cydney Gillis, seen here June 15, 2018, was one of at least 150 homeowners awaiting remediation from the hazardous contaminants left by the Everett smelter in the city’s Delta neighborhood. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

To date, 348 properties in the city have been cleaned up. Another 148 await action, with only enough money left for about 20 more. Settlement dollars are expected to run out this year unless replenished.

The Asarco-related cleanup money is one small provision in the capital budgets, which direct several billion dollars into buying, repairing and constructing infrastructure, such as schools, colleges, prisons and parks. They also provide funds for youth centers and nonprofit programs.

Washington State University’s request for $10 million to buy up land in Everett is in both budgets. The money would be used to purchase at least 10 acres of the Baker Heights property from the Everett Housing Authority.

Baker Heights is a public housing complex in northeast Everett slated for demolition. The authority is in the process of relocating residents. WSU and the authority have a memorandum of understanding for the purchase contingent on the university securing state funds.

The House and Senate proposals also provide $4 million for expansion of Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett, $1 million for the city of Lake Stevens revitalization project and $74,000 for restoration of the Carnegie Library in Edmonds.

Many items appear in one budget and not the other.

For example, the House provides $750,000 to Mountlake Terrace for its Main Street revitalization and $305,000 for new lighting and all-weather turf at Cedar Field in Marysville.

Meanwhile, the Senate plan earmarks $2 million for the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center and $300,000 for the Oso slide memorial.

Both House and Senate plans are directing hundreds of millions of dollars into expanding services and treatment for those with mental and behavioral health issues.

“Nearly every Washington family has been touched in some way by mental and behavioral health challenges. These critical investments, which would be unprecedented in our state’s history, would offer hope and improve lives,” said Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, a ranking member of the House Capital Budget committee.

“As we get ready to negotiate with the Senate on a final capital budget, I call on my colleagues in the upper chamber to stand with us to make mental and behavioral health care the priority it should be,” she said.

Sea Mar Community Health Centers would receive $1 million in the House budget for renovating its Lynnwood clinic to enable an expansion of specialty services including mental health and substance abuse disorder services. It is not in the Senate offering.

Similarly, the House provides $1 million for the Community Health Center of Snohomish County to help construct a new 10,000-square-foot facility next to its existing primary care clinic on Highway 99 in Edmonds. The Senate does not include money for the facility that would offer mental health and substance use disorder recovery services along with a pain management program.

The roughly $5 million projects could be up and running by summer, if funding is secured, according to its budget request.

Once a plan is adopted in each chamber, budget writers will reconcile the differences.

The legislative session is scheduled to end April 28.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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