Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Is your Lead Safe Home Really Safe? Some home owners found out the answer may be NO

Superfund Site: Omaha, Nebraska

Citizens of a neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska are taking action against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after a “safe home” located in the Superfund site gave the homeowner lead poisoning. Omaha was home to the American Smelting and Refining Company which, after dumping 4 tons a year of lead waste into the Missouri River, was forced to close for numerous environmental violations. The long-term contamination of the city resulted in 27 square miles around the old factory being designated as an EPA Superfund site in 1999. The area would now receive federal clean-up dollars but remains a problem to this day. The Superfund site received soil-remediation in 13,000 sites from 1999 to 2015. Each site was tested for soil levels above 400 parts per million, which was the threshold for action. Some areas had levels ranging from 1,809 to 3,437 ppm. One family, the Fisher’s, were among the sites that did not receive remediation because, at the time their home was tested in 2003, their soil level was 141 ppm. However, after starting a garden in their backyard, Maggie Fisher felt light-headed and sought medical attention; the diagnosis was lead poisoning. No matter how low of exposure, scientists and medical professionals now know that lead will cause permanently damaging effects if found at any level in the blood. Superfund sites are tested by the EPA every 5 years but with the Center for Disease Control creating new and more stringent standards for lead constantly, the levels for lead in soil to be eligible for remediation are consistently above the “safe” limit. The remediation process included soil removal and replacement of soil one foot into the ground and is replaced with new sod. Lead can still seep to the surface and be an exposure pathway when dug into. The city of Omaha did as much as they could since they can only authorize remediation for areas with ppm above the federal level. Along with help from Omaha’s lead office coordinator, citizens, like Maggie Fisher, are advocating for more change in their community and urging the attention from the EPA for more funds and assistance in the remediation of sites previously bypassed for remediation. This situation is not unique. There are Superfund sites scattered across the country and some are located here in Michigan as well. This tragic story helps remind us that adults and kids alike are susceptible to the impacts of lead. We need to be diligent and continue to work on lowering the permissible levels of lead in our environment to zero. For more information on the reports by Omaha local news, refer here: https://www.ketv.com/article/the-epa-cleaned-up-lead-in-her-neighborhood-years-ago-she-got-poisoned-this-summer/29763386