October 27, 2011 by staff
Joplin Tornado, As if there already Joplin faced a massive task of reconstruction, the city now has to deal with lead contamination caused significant and costly by a tornado on May 22 and its aftermath.
City officials estimate could cost as much as 7.5 million to clean up lead contamination re-exposed by the tornado in about 1,500 properties in the damaged areas, and have asked the federal government for help, according to a letter of 03 October, the city sent to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“High levels of lead in soil are a matter altered potentially significant liability for Joplin, and a danger to the safety of our community as well as a possible impediment to our reconstruction efforts,” according to the letter EPA Joplin Mayor Michael Woolston. High levels of lead in children may cause cognitive and developmental disorders.
EPA officials said Wednesday they were working with the city to help identify and recover the property, adding that the agreement “includes any type of funding mechanism.”
In the meantime, however, the city has stopped issuing building permits for some highly contaminated properties in heavily damaged areas until the contamination is cleaned up.
Properties can be remedied by transport of contaminated soil, or adding layers of soil, depending on the level of contamination, according to Jasper County officials.
Contamination of lead and cadmium has long been a problem in Joplin, much of which is a maze by long-abandoned lead and zinc mines.
The EPA began a massive clean-up campaign around Joplin in the 1990s that is still ongoing. About 2,400 contaminated properties, especially in the northwest of Joplin, were cleared in time for hauling contaminated soil and replace it with clean soil.
Some areas of the city are still part of a Superfund site by EPA.
But the May 22 tornado that killed 162 people and damaged about 7,500 homes, land is also concerned that had encapsulated much toxic levels of lead.
In fact, many older homes destroyed or damaged by the tornado were built on contaminated fill material called “chat” that was taken from the mining operations.
“This was used by the builders before high levels of lead in the conversation realized because it was quite cheap and easily available,” according to the letter of the city to the EPA.
In addition, following the tornado, foundations and driveways were broken, re-exposure to this material, city officials said.
“As a direct result of the devastating tornado EF5 … the city of Joplin has raised concerns about lead levels in the affected area become due to the removal of loose debris tornado and the interruption of the land, which has left the extracted residues found along the affected area, “said the letter of the city.
Of 43 properties tested after the tornado by the Jasper County Health Department, 19 had a “half yard” above 400 parts per million, a level that requires repair. Fourteen additional properties had at least one sample above 400 parts per million.
“The results reflect the significant findings of lead in the tornado affected area,” said city.
In the city added that much of the affected area qualifies as low to moderate income, ie, “the owners have no way to remedy your yard ….”
Dan Pekarek, director of the Joplin Health Department, said Wednesday that remediation efforts before finally reduced the number of children with lead levels higher than normal, and the city wants to ensure that these levels do not rise again in the wake of the tornado.
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