By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published June 27, 2012
Arsenic levels high at two parks, but no immediate health threat
EVERETT - Arsenic has been found in the soil in parts of American Legion Park and Wiggums Hollow Park that will need to be cleaned up, but officials say there’s no immediate health threat at these two north Everett parks.
Both parks are safe to play in; however, the arsenic levels meet the state Department of Ecology’s threshold for cleanup.
The primary way people are exposed to arsenic is through swallowing soil. Ecology recommends washing your hands after playing in the parks. Arsenic isn’t readily absorbed through the skin. Long-term exposure, though, could lead to cancer.
The children’s sandbox at American Legion Park could not be tested because a concrete slab is built over the soil there. The play area is contained over the slab. The ball fields at the park are below the contamination levels requiring cleanup.
Ecology tested the parks because they are within the boundaries of Asarco’s former Everett Smelter cleanup area.
The state cleanup level is 20 parts per million (ppm). In American Legion, arsenic levels in the soil samples ranged from 2.4 to 1,273 ppm. The highest levels were found in places not accessible by the public. Most of the samples at American Legion were below 100 ppm.
At Wiggums Hollow, arsenic levels ranged from 2.5 to 210 ppm.
More signs will be posted at both parks to remind people about safety precautions.
Ecology is doing a multiyear cleanup of contaminated soil across north Everett caused by the Everett Smelter that once was near Broadway and Highway 529. The smelter closed in 1912, but arsenic and lead still lingers in the soil a century later. Ecology estimates the affected area reaches south to 14th Street and west to the western edge of American Legion Park. The Snohomish River makes up the northern and eastern boundaries.
Ecology cleaned up 25 yards last year and is set to clean up 55 properties this summer. These will be the first of 500 remaining properties that will be tested and, if necessary, cleaned up. Some of the park soil will be replaced as part of the cleanup, but Ecology is focusing on cleaning up residential areas first.
It will cost $3.1 million to clean up American Legion Park and about $50,000 to clean up Wiggums Hollow Park.
The state wrangled $44 million from the 2009 bankruptcy of smelter site owner Asarco to fund the cleanup in Everett. Ecology also got money to clean up a smelter site in Tacoma and mines in eastern Washington.
The city conducted cleanup work at American Legion Park in the 1990s until the money ran out.
Ecology will be testing the Viola Oursler pocket park next year.
“The closer to the smelter site you are, the sooner we’ll get to you,” said Meg Bommarito, Ecology site manager for the Everett clean up.
Ecology recommends people take their shoes off before entering their house to keep from tracking in soil, and to wash pets regularly before they enter the house.
The agency also recommends mopping and vacuuming the house often to clean up any soil tracked in.
People should grow their gardens in raised beds, and wear gloves when working with soil, Ecology recommends.
Ecology staff members are available from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays at the Baker Heights Community Center, 1401 Poplar St. They can answer questions and share information.
People also can call the local information line at 425-530-5169 to speak to an Ecology staff member.