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TACOMA, Wash. -- Clean-up efforts are underway to remove toxins from people's yards in Tacoma contaminated from the Tacoma Smelter Plume. The Department of Ecology's Yard Sampling and Cleanup program will oversee the project.

The work is happening near Point Defiance Elementary in Tacoma, where some of the first homes are getting soil removed for having what the Department of Ecology calls active levels. Some have lived within the contaminated zone for years, and say they didn't know the severity of the contamination.

"I've lived here since the mid-50s when the house was new, and we would taste the fallout sometimes although we didn't think of anything building in the soil," said Verniece Lambert, a long-time Tacoma resident.

Arsenic and lead are the two toxins the Department of Ecology has been testing for and trying to remove for years. It's contamination left behind from the Asarco Company operation of a copper smelter in Tacoma for 100 years. Air pollution from the smelter settled on the surface soil over more than 1,000 square miles of the Puget Sound basin.

Soil from and 4,000 homes will be tested in the next several years and an estimated 1200 homes will likely need to have soil removed, which would happen within seven or years, according to Amy Hargrove,

"It's really important that we protect public health and that we're able to move in and remove the highest levels and also educate people who don't get clean-ups that there is arsenic and lead in the soil." said Amy Hargrove, the Tacoma Smelter Plume Clean-Up Manager with the Department of Ecology.

The project has been funded through a $94 million settlement with the Asarco Plant, with about $65 million designated for this particular projected. The program is free for residents who have been affected and choose to opt into the program.

For more information on whether your property qualifies:
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites_brochure/tacoma_smelter/yard/yardProgram.html

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