Tacoma Smelter

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Overview



The Tacoma Smelter furnace was fired up on September 12, 1889 and began melting metal ores to extract copper, lead, and arsenic that were easily shipped by water and rail but contaminated the surrounding area. The smelter was known for its tall 562 foot smokestack, which sent pollutants up and away from the smelter into surrounding communities. While the smelter was permanently closed in 1986 and the stack demolished in 1993, the environmental damage was already complete. The American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) operated a copper smelter on the shores of Commencement Bay in Ruston, near Tacoma, Washington for almost 100 years. The facility began its life as a lead smelter in 1889, and was converted to a copper smelter in 1902. It was sold to ASARCO in 1905.

Bankruptcy as Corporate Makeover - ASARCO demonstrates how to evade environmental responsibility by By Mara Kardas-Nelson, Lin Nelson, and Anne Fischel in Dollars & Sense Real World Economics 2010.

Toxicological Perspective


The 562 foot smokestack of the Asarco copper/lead/arsenic smelter in Ruston, near Tacoma, WA contaminated large areas around the Tacoma and Seattle, WA area with lead and arsenic.


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  1. ASARCO = American Smelting & Refining Company, not Corporation