The federal government has reached an agreement which will help to protect the health and environment of Tacoma and Ruston-area citizens by expediting the estimated $28 million cleanup of the Asarco Smelter Site in Tacoma and Ruston, Wash.
The agreement will allow Asarco to sell the Asarco Smelter property, which is part of the Commencement Bay Nearshore/Tideflats Superfund Site, to Lacey, Wash.-based developer Point Ruston LLC. This ensures that the cleanup work required on the approximately 97 acquired acres of contaminated land will be completed.
Under this agreement, Point Ruston will assume all cleanup obligations on the property owned by Asarco and assume significant cleanup obligations on adjacent land which was also contaminated by Asarco’s past operations.
“Today’s action marks significant progress in the ongoing remediation of this site and reaffirms our continued commitment to ensuring that hazardous waste sites are cleaned up,” said Matt McKeown, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Point Ruston intends to undertake residential and commercial development on the purchased property and will clean up the land to residential environmental standards. Along with the purchased property, Point Ruston has agreed to clean up the non-residential adjacent, contaminated property which due to the development will have significant public access.
The land is the former site of a smelting facility operated by Asarco from 1912 to 1985. A by-product of the smelting process, called slag, was used by Asarco as fill material throughout the facility and was also poured into Commencement Bay to extend the shoreline of the smelter site by approximately 500 feet.
Slag and other wastes from past smelter operations contaminate the property and are a continuing source of contamination of groundwater below the site and to marine sediments offshore of the smelter property. According to current estimate, as much as 15 million tons of slag exists on the site today.
On Aug. 9, 2005, Asarco filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Texas. On January 30, 2006, the Bankruptcy Court approved the sale of the property to MC Construction and the sale agreement was subsequently assigned to Point Ruston.