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Published: Sunday, January 26, 2014, 1:00 a.m.

Flooding will unleash arsenic

The residents of North Everett have lived with the residual effects of the Asarco arsenic contamination for years. It has been an extremely expensive conflict in getting this area cleaned up and continues to this day. Here’s the next chapter.

Smith Island will be flooded, eliminating 400 acres of grasslands (also known as: farmland, wetlands and pastures) that have lain fallow within Dike District 5’s control for decades. Those acres were within the plume from the exhaust stacks of the Asarco plant during its operations from 1894 to 1912 and prevailing winds. That plume contained the heavy metals — arsenic and lead. When the dikes are moved, and the land reconfigured as tidal wetland/fish habitat with resulting twice daily flooding and draining it will create a leaching effect, freeing these toxic chemicals into the tidal flows.

There has been no mention within the studies included in the Snohomish County’s FEIS of the potential effects of long term exposure of fingerling salmonids during their fresh/saltwater transitional stay in the estuary containing higher levels of arsenic or lead. In other fish species exposure to these toxins has resulted in increased mortality, gene modification and deformities. (If you don’t believe me, ask a fish biologist.)

The cost of clean-up to Everett and Asarco could have been as high as $78 million.

In the county’s rush to raise two fish per acre for the next 10 years (what good is that to raise two-headed fish), does the citizen of the county and tribal members want to spend $30 million to create a potential ecological and health disaster for generations to come? I am sure that if Asarco had known the potential harmful effects of the smelter operations 100 years ago they would have chosen not to create this mess. Now that the County Council know of these hazards, both to human and fish, will they blindly create another hazard for your children and their children?”

Norm Nunnally

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