MAC: Mines and Communities

US:EPA to Test 10,000 Indiana Yards for Lead from Ancient Factories

Published by MAC on 2009-08-10
Source: ENS

MAC special edition on lead

EVANSVILLE, Indiana - At least 10,000 more properties in residential neighborhoods of Evansville will be tested for lead and arsenic contamination in the soil of their yards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 announced today.

Long-shuttered companies that once manufactured horse-drawn plows, stoves and lead shot operated outdoor foundries in the area from 1880 to 1950. These operations likely released lead and arsenic particles into the air that eventually ended up in the soil, the EPA says.

The agency has expanded the area to be tested and cleaned up for lead and arsenic at the Jacobsville Neighborhood Lead Contamination Superfund site, which was placed on the Superfund List in July 2004. Though the expanded area encompasses a number of other neighborhoods, EPA says it will continue to use the Jacobsville name.

A pair of hearings to accept public comments and answer questions about the project will be held Tuesday, June 23, 6:30 to 8:30 pm and Wenesday, June 24, 10 am to noon, at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, 200 S.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., which is in the affected area.

The Jacobsville Neighborhood Superfund site is in a residential area where environmental justice issues are a concern. The site includes a hospital, a school, and several small businesses.

In late 2007 to early 2008, EPA cleaned up 83 properties with lead levels above 1,200 parts per million. EPA's lead cleanup level is 400 ppm, 30 ppm for arsenic.

As that work concluded, EPA announced plans to clean up lead and arsenic soil contamination in the yards of about 350 homes in a 140-acre area.

That work, now supported by up to $5 million in Recovery Act funding, will begin in fall and winter 2009. EPA says it will clean the soil surrounding 125 residences as the first of three phases of this long-term effort.

The soils contaminated with lead and arsenic will be excavated to the depth of elevated concentrations, a maximum depth of two feet. EPA will dispose of the contaminated soil off-site. Yards will then be reseeded and returned to their original condition.

Use of the Recovery Act funds will allow EPA to speed up the cleanup of the first 125 homes, which will reduce residents' exposure to the toxics.

The third, just-announced, expanded area encompasses about a dozen neighborhoods in a 4.5-square-mile area north and south of the Lloyd Expressway north of downtown Evansville.

EPA expects about 4,000 properties may require cleanup, but work in this new expanded project area would not begin for several years.

The contamination was discovered during an analysis of residential soils collected as part of a reassessment of the Evansville Plating Works, an abandoned electroplating and metal refinishing facility.

Analysis of soil samples collected in 2000 by Indiana Department of Environmental Management revealed lead levels in the residential soils as high as 6,150 mg/kg, far above the EPA's allowable levels.

In 2001, IDEM researchers found that four former facilities may have contributed to the lead problem - Blount Plow Works, Advance Stove Works, Newton-Kelsay, and Sharpes Shot Works.

Blount Plow Works operated from the 1880s to the 1940s as a manufacturer of horse-driven plows. The facility operated a foundry. A Buehler's IGA grocery store now occupies the site.

Advance Stove Works, which operated from the turn of the century to about the 1950s, was a manufacturer of stoves. This site also operated a foundry. The site is now operated by the Benthall Brothers.

Newton-Kelsay, which operated from the turn of the century to the 1950s, was a manufacturer of hames. The site is now occupied by a McDonald's Restaurant.

Sharpes Shot Works operated from 1878 to an unknown date, and manufactured lead shot for guns. The site is now owned by Deaconess Hospital.

Lead toxicity affects the nervous system, both in adults and children, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances. Long-term exposure can cause weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles and small increases in blood pressure, particularly in middle-aged and older people. Exposure to high lead levels can severely damage the brain and kidneys in adults or children and can ultimately cause death. In pregnant women, high levels of exposure to lead may cause miscarriage. High level exposure in men can damage the organs responsible for sperm production.

In addition to the public hearings, comments may also be submitted by e-mail to EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Dave Novak at; by fax at 312-692-2483, or to Novak via surface mail at U.S. EPA Region 5 (SI-7J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604.

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