VAPOR INTRUSION: 17 of 26 Como homes tested show elevated TCE - FOX 35 News Orlando

VAPOR INTRUSION: 17 of 26 Como homes tested show elevated TCE

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  • VAPOR INTRUSION: 17 of 26 Como homes tested show elevated TCEMore>>

  • Como residents meet on vapor intrusion, contamination concerns

    Como residents alerted to vapors from old General Mills site

    Tuesday, November 12 2013 11:29 PM EST2013-11-13 04:29:28 GMT
    On Tuesday night, residents living in a southeast Minneapolis neighborhood came together to discuss the investigation into potentially harmful vapors linked to solvents dumped there.
    On Tuesday night, residents living in a southeast Minneapolis neighborhood came together to discuss the investigation into potentially harmful vapors linked to solvents dumped during the 1940s through the early 1960s.
  • Como residents alerted to vapors from old General Mills site

    Como residents alerted to vapors from old General Mills site

    Thursday, November 7 2013 10:41 PM EST2013-11-08 03:41:49 GMT
    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent letters to residents of the Como neighborhood in southeast Minneapolis on Nov. 6 to alert them of an ongoing investigation of potentially harmful vapors.
    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent letters to residents of the Como neighborhood in southeast Minneapolis on Wednesday, Nov. 6 to alert them of an ongoing investigation of potentially harmful vapors. The vapors in question are trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent used at the former General Mills research facility at 2010 E. Hennepin Avenue from the 1940s to early 1960s.
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

Potentially dangerous vapors have residents in one Minneapolis neighborhood more than concerned. Some are calling attorneys -- even Erin Brockovich -- over the contamination at a former General Mills site.

Sections of the Como neighborhood have been selected for trichloroethylene (TCE) testing to see if vapors linked to industrial solvents dumped by General Mills are seeping into homes. So far, 57 homes have been checked out; however, officials say less than half of the homes in the priority testing area have agreed to allow inspectors inside.

The results so far have rattled an already-concerned community. In September, soil samples confirmed the presence of TCE in public areas of the Como neighborhood, and officials with the MPCA say it is possible for the vapors to seep into basements or foundation cracks and build up indoors. Now, in-home tests are reporting significant readings.

"I wasn't exactly pleased," Coral Sadoway admitted.

Sadoway has spent most of her life in her southeast Minneapolis neighborhood, but she only recently learned her home was one of 89 scheduled to be tested. Once the inspectors came, she learned she had more than 3,000 micrograms of TCE per cubic meter inside.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recommends equipping any home those tests higher than 20 units per cubic meter (ug/m3) with a ventilation system that will remove the potentially hazardous vapors.

"Sure, it might take things out -- but the fact is, it's here and it's been here for a long time," Sadoway said.

So far, 17 of the 26 homes that have completed testing are above the MPCA threshold --- and by a lot. The readings have ranged between 40 and 15,300 ug/m3.

"I found out a woman down the street got a result of 15,000 -- which really trumped my concern of being at 3,000," Sadoway admitted.

The results have residents pursuing a class-action lawsuit to address concerns that range from personal health to property values.

"He raised serious concerns about what he does now," Gordon Rudd, of Zimmerman Reed Attorneys, said of one homeowner. "What disclosures does he need to make? Who will want to buy his house? What is this going to do to the ability to sell his house and for what amount?"

In Sadoway's case, the company that performed the testing said in addition to installing a system to prevent vapors from entering the home, they may need to replace her basement floor -- but she insists they fix the source of the problem.

"It's like putting a small Band-Aid on a huge gash and expecting it to heal with that," she said. "It's not going to go away."

General Mills has offered to cover the cost of testing and installation of any required ventilation system, and with the equipment costing roughly $2,000 a piece, they could be looking at a large invoice. Only 5 homes tested low enough to need no further action. Samples taken from 4 additional homes returned results below 20, but they must be retested in a few weeks.

Even so, residents remain worried -- especially when they consider how test results vary from house to house. On Saturday, the lead investigator for Erin Brockovich's foundation intends to speak to those who remain concerned at Van Cleve Park.

From the MPCA's perspective, the first priority will stay on taking care of the homes that have tested positive. Then, they will address the source by looking at new technologies to treat the soil and groundwater.

General Mills used the common chemical between the 1940s and 1960s, dumping it into a pool on site as was standard at the time. The chemicals polluted the groundwater, and the company spent 25 years treating two contaminated aquifers beneath the Como neighborhood. The water treatment efforts were halted in 2010.

Online resources:

- TCE vapors investigation FAQ: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/waste/waste-and-cleanup/cleanup/superfund/investigation-into-tce-soil-vapor-in-the-como-neighborhood-of-minneapolis.html

- Minnesota Department of Health on Vapor Intrusion: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/hazardous/topics/vaporintrusion.html

- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/

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