Ecology to clean up industrial Everett Smelter sites

EVERETT — The state Department of Ecology has spent the past 16 years cleaning up the contamination left behind by the Everett Smelter.

Much of that work has been focused on the residential neighborhood near the smelter site and Legion Park.

With much of that work completed or in progress, efforts are now moving down the hill to the industrial waterfront along the Snohomish River.

The department has identified 15 locations totalling 230 acres that need to be cleaned up. Most of them are located between East Marine View Drive and the riverbank. They are primarily contaminated with lead, arsenic and mercury.

The most concentrated area is the site of the former cooling flue of the smelter, which stood in the current location of the northbound on-ramp leading from East Marine View Drive onto Highway 529.

The other 14 sites were mostly affected by secondary contamination: where dust from the smelter operations settled, where debris was stored, and where runoff took the pollutants downhill.

“We’re hoping to address all those issues by removing the source material and preventing the spread of contamination,” said Sandra Matthews, Ecology’s project manager for the cleanup.

The Everett Smelter operated from 1892-1912. By 1913 the smelter had been dismantled and the land sold off to developers.

Asarco, the company that eventually bought the assets of the smelter, sold the last of its property in 1936. Houses started going up in the late 1930s and 1940s. By then, Everett was better known as a town of sawmills, not smelting.

It wasn’t until 1990 when somebody found bags of concentrated arsenic trioxide buried in a back yard that people began to become aware of the contamination underneath.

“People had forgotten that it was even there,” Matthews said. “Twenty years is a long time, 50 years is even longer.”

Ecology has posted its cleanup plans for the lowland areas on its website, and is accepting public comments until Sept. 20.

After the comment period, the department will move forward with an engineering plan, and the first physical work could begin within two years, Matthews said.

It would start with the former site of the cooling flue, where the plan would be to remove all the contaminated material.

That might allow the lower concentrations on the other site to dissipate more quickly, necessitating less cleanup at those sites. Ecology plans to monitor the sites after cleanup to measure the impact.

The cleanup work is being paid for out of a $188 million bankruptcy settlement with Asarco, the company that owns the assets and liabilities of the former smelter.

About $34 million was earmarked for the cleanup. Ecology has about $7 million left, most of that reserved for the lowland cleanup.

Up on top of the hill, it has completed the cleanup in Legion Park and on about 300 north Everett properties over the last 16 years.

The department has requested more funding from the Legislature to help finish the job, Matthews said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Everett Smelter cleanup public input

The state Department of Ecology is seeking public comment on its plan to clean up several industrial properties of contamination from the Everett Smelter. Comments can be sent to Sandra Matthews, project manager, at Department of Ecology, 3190 150th Ave. SE, Bellevue, WA 98008 or sandra.matthews@ecy.wa.gov. The full plan is available on the department’s website: http://bit.ly/1FLDMJY

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