From a Snohomish Health District News Release.
Arsenic and lead contamination poses public health concern to community
At its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, the Snohomish County Board of Health unanimously approved a resolution in support of the City of Everett’s request to the legislature for capital funding to address the Everett Smelter clean-up.
The smelter in northeast Everett was operated by Asarco from 1894-1912 and caused widespread arsenic and lead contamination in the topsoil. This is now one of the largest contaminated sites in Snohomish County.
The Snohomish Health District issued a Health Advisory in March 1991 for the area, after the state Department of Ecology completed a preliminary site hazard assessment. The assessment identified arsenic, cadmium and lead as the chemicals of concern. These metals came out of the smokestack and dropped from the air onto the ground. They don’t break down or evaporate, so the metals stick to soil particles and stay for a long time.
A bankruptcy settlement with Asarco funded some of the clean-up efforts, but those monies are depleted. The City of Everett’s capital request seeks to provide sustained funding so that the Department of Ecology can complete mandated clean-up activities.
“Efforts to clean up the Everett Smelter site have been going on for years, representing a public health issue for residents and businesses in this community for far too long,” said Brian Sullivan, a Board of Health member and Snohomish County councilmember.
“I’m hopeful that this action brings the attention and support needed for the legislature to provide funding needed to complete the project.”
Lead and arsenic are toxic metals that can have severe health impacts on adults and children. Long-term exposure of arsenic has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer of the bladder, lung, skin, kidney, liver, and prostate.
In children, lead can cause behavioral problems like hyperactivity, permanent learning difficulties, and reduced physical growth. In adults, lead can increase blood pressure, affect memory, and contribute to other health problems. Steps to reduce exposure are available on the Department of Ecology’s website.
Public health plays an essential role in tracking, responding to, and preventing costly food and water contamination. Typical sites in Snohomish County include closed landfills, auto wrecking yards, leaking underground storage tank sites or former bulk fuel storage facilities. To learn more, visit www.snohd.org/191/Contaminated-Properties.