Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Friday, July 14, 2006

Arsenic

My office has organized a meeting of City staff members from a number of departments (Housing Inspections, Environmental Services and the Attorney's office) and Paula Maccabee from the Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota to talk about arsenic.

Here's the scoop: decades ago, a pesticide company called CMC Heartland contaminated a large area of south Minneapolis with wind-blown arsenic. From Environmental Protection Agency wind dispersion models, the affected neighborhoods include Midtown Phillips, East Phillips, Ventura Village, Powderhorn Park, Corcoran, Longfellow, Seward and Cedar Riverside.

Since 2004, the EPA has been testing soil at residential properties within what they term the "South Minneapolis Neighborhood Soil Contamination Site." As of mid-June of this year, the EPA has tested about 3,100 properties.

The EPA will clean up yards with soil contamination above 95 parts per million (ppm), the level they've judged to be "acute," contingent on the landowner's permission. However, the EPA does not at this time have funding or authority to clean up any yard found to have a level of contamination below 95 ppm.

From what I have heard, there is not consensus on a "safe" level of arsenic in soil. It seems clear to me that there is significant risk from chronic exposure to levels above 10 ppm, such as elevated risk of cancer, especially for children. State officials have repeatedly asked for all yards over 30 ppm to be cleaned up by the EPA, but it looks like it will be some time before this cleanup is completed.

The EPA is prohibited from giving test results (in this case on the arsenic level in the soil) to anyone but the property owner. Many of the affected neighborhoods are very high in rental housing. These facts combine to create a dangerous situation: parents with young children renting apartments where the soil poses serious chronic health risks, who don't know of the contamination.

Here's where the City comes in. We're looking into passing an ordinance requring landlords to inform tenants of soil contamination in the range that has been determined to pose a chronic risk. Additionally, we're looking into requiring property owners to cooperate with free EPA remediation programs when available. Lastly, we could try to include EPA test data in the Truth-in-Housing requirements, to ensure that homebuyers will be informed of known arsenic contamination.

This is a preliminary meeting to hash out these issues. Some may well not be within the City's jurisdiction or have some other sort of obstacle, but I'm eager to do what we can to help protect the health of residents until the contamination has been completely cleaned up.

2 Comments:

At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One potential concern with the EPA remediation program is the extent to which "cleaning up the soil" will involve secondary die off of our wonderful mature trees.

Clean up has been described as scaping off the first 12 -18 inches of soil. Most trees entire root systems are found in the first 12 inches of our yards and boulevards.

Please make sure to include Park Board foresters in your workgroups as you move forward. I have a very high level of concern about this for our property but also for the cumulative effect on multiple properties in our neighborhoods.

 
At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be nice to know the areas that have tested high within the Seward area. My family lived there during the time the plant was blowing contaminants and while we all eventually moved out by the mid 1960's, we have had many family members succumb to cancer. My father is currently end stage for bladder cancer. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. Her sister and husband both had cancer as did her brother and father. All are now deceased.

 

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