Arsenic and lead close popular Tacoma park


by JANET KIM / KING 5 News

Posted on July 8, 2014 at 6:51 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 8 at 7:37 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- It's a place where kids play and spend their summers, but one of Tacoma's most popular parks is now closed.

Beginning Tuesday, soil is being removed from Vassault Park, located in Tacoma's West End, after high levels of arsenic and lead were found.

With long-term exposure, arsenic can lead to heart disease, diabetes and cancer while lead can damage the nervous system, which can be linked to behavioral problems.

After nearly two decades of living across from the popular park, Eugene Sturdevant has gotten used to the sights and sounds of families and children playing.
"There’s a soccer group that plays out there and baseball," he said. "There’s a lot of activity over there."

His view will now be filled with excavators and heavy machinery transforming the fields into a full-blown construction site. The Department of Ecology said the arsenic and lead were left behind from the Asarco copper smelter that has been closed for nearly 30 years.

It's why for the next several months, crews will remove six inches of soil off eight acres of the park, mostly where the open fields are located.
Park visitors like Ben Miller believe the efforts are long overdue.

"I think it’s a good idea to make the changes now -- better late than never," Miller said.

However, for longtime neighbor like Sturdevant, whose soil has been tested and cleared, the massive clean-up still has him wondering if he should be worried about his property too.

"You know if it’s necessary just one hundred feet from my house. How come it’s not necessary here?"