Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The EPA wants arsenic out of your yard!

While most funding for Brownfields cleanup in Minneapolis comes from Hennepin County, the Met Council, the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the EPA has undertaken an environmental remediation project in your backyard. The EPA project addresses residential yards in South Minneapolis within a ¾ mile radius of the site of a past pesticide formulation plant called the CMC Heartland Lite Yard. “Several companies produced pesticides at the plant from 1938 to 1968. When arsenic was discovered at the plant site, health agencies suspected that the wind might have blown contaminated dust into nearby neighborhoods.”[1]

From 2004 to 2008, EPA cleaned up almost 200 properties at very high rates of arsenic contamination. “In 2009, up to $25 million in Recovery Act funding was provided to EPA to complete the cleanup of almost 500 additional residential properties with lower levels of arsenic contamination in this area. EPA expects to complete the cleanup of these properties in 2011.”[2] The funding allocation came from a total $600 million designated to Superfund cleanup by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The reason given for Minneapolis receiving the funding is that it would accelerate work already being completed and it would also jumpstart the local economy by creating jobs in the Twin Cities area.[3]

On April 14, the EPA released an announcement that they would resume cleanup for the season. “Work is set to begin in May. EPA and its contractors plan to clean up about 100 properties by the end of the year, which will close out the multi-phased project.”[4] The process of cleaning up a yard once it has been tested includes removing One foot of topsoil and replacing it with clean soil. “In some cases EPA may remove more soil if testing shows deeper arsenic contamination. The contaminated soil is trucked to an off-site, licensed landfill for safe disposal.”[5]

Until a residence’s soil has been tested and replaced, gardening - especially for vegetables that will be consumed - is discouraged. After soil replacement gardening is safe. This is a frustration for residents in South Minneapolis who may not have enough arsenic to warrant soil replacement but still don’t like the idea of eating toxic chemicals. One local resident plants sun flowers to ‘soak’ up the poison and eventually disposes of them at the Hennepin County hazardous waste facility.[6]

What’s interesting about the EPA project is that there has been little to no collaboration with the City of Minneapolis. Under MinneapolisBrownfields Program the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department has a staffer with half of his time designated for Brownfield projects in the city and additional assistance from staff at Minneapolis Finance. Together the departments coordinate funding from county, metro, state and even EPA sources to clean up Brownfields in the city. Since 1995 they have cleaned up over 245 sites with approximately $71.6 million in combined funds.[7]






[6]Interview with Alicia Uzarek, South Minneapolis resident

[7] Interview with Paula Mazzacano, Minneapolis Finance

1 comment:

  1. Kelly has there been arguments by the City of Minneapolis that the sites that EPA has chosen are inappropriate?