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Superfund Program Implements the Recovery Act

Commencement Bay/Ruston-North Tacoma

Tacoma, Washington

Site Description
The Commencement Bay Nearshore/Tideflats site is located in the City of Tacoma and the Town of Ruston at the southern end of Puget Sound. It encompasses an active commercial seaport and includes 12-square-miles of shallow water, shoreline, and adjacent land, most of which is highly developed and industrialized.  EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List in 1983 due to widespread contamination of the water, sediments and upland areas. The Asarco smelter shut down in 1985, but a century of stack emission fallout from smelting operations had contaminated the soils in the town of Ruston and a northern portion of the City of Tacoma with high levels of arsenic and lead.  The area is primarily residential and includes schools, playgrounds and parks. Smelter slag has also been used by residents in various applications.

Cleanup Activities to Date
To address the site, EPA has divided it into a number of separate project areas, which EPA is managing as distinct sites.  One of the project areas is the Ruston/North Tacoma Study Area.  Since EPA started sampling and long-term cleanup activities in 1993, the Agency has sampled almost 4,000, and cleaned up 2,300, yards, park areas and right-of-ways.  Work has been conducted by Asarco, but the Asarco Trust Fund is not sufficient to complete the work. 

Recovery Act Project Activity
EPA will use the approximately $5.2 million in Recovery Act funds to support activities at the Ruston/North Tacoma study area, which encompasses approximately 950 acres located in a one-mile circle around the former Asarco Tacoma smelter. Both the smelter and the study area are part of the larger site. Recovery Act resources applied to this area will complete residential cleanup involving excavation of contaminated soils from residential yards, park lands and right-of-ways.

FY2011 highlights include:

  • As of September 30, 2011, all work funded under the Recovery Act has been completed. All properties requiring remediation where access was provided have been remediated. A total of 129 properties required remediation and 123 were remediated. EPA is determining what actions are necessary for the properties where remediation was refused.

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