Arsenic cleanup gets underway, thanks to Recovery funding

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun cleanup of arsenic-contaminated soil at nearly 500 South Minneapolis homes. This project is supported by $20 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Residents pay nothing for the cleanup.

From 2004 to 2008, an EPA Superfund team cleaned up 197 properties with arsenic levels above 95 parts per million (ppm), at the South Minneapolis Residential Soil Contamination Site. The work beginning in September targets properties with lower levels of contamination.

The South Minneapolis site is one of 50 Superfund National Priorities List sites benefiting from $600 million in Recovery Act funding announced in April.

The South Minneapolis Superfund site encompasses a number of neighborhoods near the intersection of 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue where the CMC Heartland Lite Yard was located from about 1938 to 1968. A pesticide containing arsenic was produced there and material from an open-air railcar-unloading and product-mixing operation is believed to have been wind-blown into nearby neighborhoods. Since 2004, EPA has collected soil samples from more than 3,000 properties in the area.  

The current work plan—the final phase of cleanup, now due to wrap-up in 2012— calls for removing shallow soil with arsenic levels from 25 to 94 ppm. EPA will take soil samples from each excavated property to confirm that only trace levels of arsenic remain. If sampling shows that soil one foot deep still contains arsenic higher than 95 ppm, workers will dig deeper. Once the contaminated soil is removed, EPA will fill in the yards with clean soil and restore any landscaping disturbed.

The federal Superfund program was created in 1980 to clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites that pose unacceptable risks to human health and the environment. Superfund sites are often found in industrial areas hardest hit by the recession. Superfund cleanups are major construction projects which employ thousands of workers nationwide. Since it began, the program has cleaned up 1,064 of the 1,596 sites on its National Priorities List.

President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Feb. 17, and has directed the Recovery Act be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability. To that end, the American people can see how every dollar is being invested at www.Recovery.gov.

For more information on the South Minneapolis Residential Soil Contamination Superfund Site, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/eparecovery/south_minneapolis.html.

For more information on the Superfund program, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/.

Published Sep. 8, 2009