EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The Environmental Protection Agency has cleaned up about half of the lead-tainted soil where several long-defunct factories contaminated a southwest Indiana neighborhood, agency officials said.
About 2,000 additional properties still need to be cleaned up in the roughly 4.5-square-mile (nearly 12-square-kilometer) area surrounding Evansville’s downtown, the Evansville Courier & Press reported . EPA officials named the area one of the most contaminated sites in the U.S. in 2004.
“Windborne particulates from manufacturing operations resulted in widespread contamination throughout the community,” EPA officials said in a statement.
If a property is found to have unsafe levels of lead, the EPA removes the first two feet of dirt from the entire property and replaces it with clean soil.
“I’m so excited about this,” said Jessica Joyner, a homeowner whose property was cleaned earlier this month. “Anytime you hear the word ‘lead’ you associate it as something that can be harmful, especially to children. So for them to tell me I have contaminated soil, and I have small children, I took it seriously.”
Lead can be especially harmful to children, causing decreased bone and muscle growth, damage to the nervous system, developmental delays and speech and language problems.
“The biggest problem with lead is once the damage is done, it’s irreversible,” said Joe Griss, an administrator at the Vanderburgh County Health Department. “Once it’s caught, all we can do is stop it from getting worse.”
The health department offers free lead testing for children. About 20 Evansville children are found to have unhealthy lead levels in their blood each year.
EPA officials said the agency will perform additional sampling to continue the design and cleanup phase over the next few years. The agency expects cleanup efforts to continue through at least 2020.
Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com