Toxins Close Tacoma Park

Vassault Park is one of Tacoma’s most popular parks, but this summer the park will be closed and renovated. The park, located in the West End neighborhood, has been identified as a toxic area. High levels of arsenic and lead were found in the soil.

Officials say the toxins are left over from the Asarco copper smelter that occupied the area up until almost 30 years ago. Crews will be working for months to remove about six inches of soil off of the eight acre park, though the depth of soil removal will vary by area. The Department of Ecology will be overseeing and paying for the soil remediation. Metro Parks Tacoma will be paying about $300,000 for drainage improvements, including replacing the irrigation system.

The project was announced months ago, and officials said the contamination was not high enough to pose an immediate threat. The tennis courts and playground will remain open throughout the project. Most of the work will last through October, but the playfields will stay closed until the summer of 2015 to protect the new grass.

Neighbors were concerned for their own soil safety, but officials have tested the neighboring properties and said they did not find any additional areas with high enough toxin levels to need soil replacement.