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Tacoma Smelter Plume
  tacoma smelter plume ó FAQs  

Should I be concerned about my well water?

No. The soil studies showed that the highest lead and arsenic concentrations were closer to ground surface and decrease with depth. Lead and arsenic generally stay in the upper 6 inches of soil and barely moved down the soil column. In addition, groundwater testing as part of routine drinking water system testing in King County does not show groundwater contamination, even in areas where the soil contains higher levels of lead and arsenic than Thurston County soils.

What about other water on my property, such as a pond or spring that animals drink from?

Lead and arsenic may be in ponded water due to the sediments and dirt that are in it. Avoid letting animals drink muddy or cloudy ponded water. Spring water has arsenic and lead at naturally occurring levels, until the water mixes with contaminated soils. Move spring water into a trough for animals to drink to lessen the amount of sediment, possibly containing lead and arsenic, they ingest.

If I live within the study area, does that mean the soil in my yard has elevated lead and arsenic?

No. It means that there are areas within the study area that have arsenic and lead in the soil above those naturally occurring. Many of the samples collected throughout the study area had arsenic and lead at or below those naturally occurring. Properties that have buildings, yards, landscaping, farming, graded areas, or other activities that mix soils are less likely to have lead and arsenic above those naturally occurring in surface soil.

I dug out the soil in my garden. What do I do with it?

Move this dirt to areas that get less contact, such as perennial garden beds, under landscape fabric, etc.

Will I be required to clean up the soil?

No. However, you may benefit from replacing or covering soil in high activity areas such as playgrounds, gardens, and pet areas.

I have a garden in the study area. Is it safe to eat my vegetables?

Yes. Vegetables take up arsenic, lead, and other metals from the soil although the exact amount is unknown. The concentrations of arsenic and lead found in the soil may be 10 to 1000 times greater than that found in the vegetables grown there. Because of this, you should take precautions to avoid eating the dirt that may be on the vegetables. Wash all fruits and vegetables prior to eating them to reduce the amount of soil ingested. Peeling carrots, potatoes, and root vegetables before eating will also decrease the amount of dirt you eat with these foods.

What about produce from farms in the study area. Is it safe to eat?

Yes. The soil samples collected in Thurston County were from undeveloped areas that were mostly undisturbed for the last 100 years. The more the soil is disturbed, the lower the concentrations of lead and arsenic are in the surface soils (due to mixing with deeper soils). Farmed land is mixed with each tilling and amended with other soil and fertilizers. These soils would be unlikely to still have significant levels of arsenic and lead from the smelter activities.

I'm outside the study area. Should I follow the guidelines to reduce exposure to contaminants in dirt anyway?

Yes. Minimizing the amount of dirt and dust you eat is suggested to everyone. Pesticides, bacteria, and other contaminants are found in dirt and can be brought inside your home if you donít take care to remove dirt before entering.

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This page last updated: 01/28/22