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Final Record of Decision Issued for Omaha Lead Site

Release Date: 05/13/2009
Contact Information: Chris Whitley, 913-551-7394, whitley.christopher@epa.gov


Environmental News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Kansas City, Kan., May 13, 2009) - More than 10 years of cooperative efforts by EPA, community members and groups to address problems associated with the nation's largest residential lead site reached a key milestone today with the signing of EPA's Final Record of Decision (ROD) for the Omaha Lead Superfund Site.

The decision document sets out a comprehensive record of EPA's historic activities and plans for the continuing cleanup of thousands of the city's residential yards that were contaminated over a period of decades by airborne lead emissions from the former ASARCO lead refinery.

In 1998, Omaha City Council Member Frank Brown asked EPA to evaluate growing concerns about the number of children with elevated blood-lead levels residing in eastern Omaha. Subsequently, since 1999, EPA has cleaned up more than 4,600 properties and sampled more than 35,000 properties in Omaha. Under the final remedy outlined by the ROD, an additional 10,000 properties will also be addressed.

"The pace and scope of this cleanup are unprecedented for the nation's Superfund program," Acting Region 7 Administrator William Rice said. "It reflects one of the Agency's most important mission priorities, the protection of children's health."

EPA's progress will be significantly enhanced as a result of receiving more than $25 million in Recovery Act funds for the Omaha remedy, as announced last month. The stimulus funding will be used to accelerate soil cleanup and lead-based paint stabilization activities, emphasizing small businesses, with incentives to hire locally and purchase local goods and services.

In meeting this historic milestone, EPA has partnered with health agencies, community organizations, schools, medical groups, and the public to promote health education and address serious health issues associated with lead exposure in Omaha.

Health research and other scientific studies have shown that children ingest lead from environmental sources primarily through hand-to-mouth activity. Elevated lead levels in the blood of children ages six and under are considered particularly dangerous, and have been attributed to a host of physical and behavioral health problems, including aggressiveness, lower IQs, hearing deficiencies, kidney damage, and neurological disorders.

Among its comprehensive efforts to address lead contamination in Omaha, EPA has:
  • Provided grant funding to local agencies and community organizations to disseminate lead educational materials and health information
  • Established two local public information centers in Omaha to provide and interpret environmental sampling data from individual properties, to serve as information repositories, and to promote health education
  • Worked closely with state and local governments, community organizations and neighborhood groups to promote lead awareness and share prevention tips
  • Listened closely and communicated regularly and transparently with the public about lead health hazards, through public meetings, news media contacts, cable television and radio announcements, community advisory groups, personal conversations, Web communications and briefings of elected officials.

EPA's next steps include the continuance of yard soil cleanups and paint stabilization in eastern Omaha. Depending on weather conditions and other variables, we are hopeful to maximize the amount of work to be performed during the 2009 construction season.

EPA looks forward to continuing its partnership with the Omaha community in protecting childrens' health and striving for a cleaner lead-free environment.
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EPA Region 7's Web site has extensive information about the Omaha Lead Site. Learn more

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