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EPA Encourages City of Joplin, Mo., to Apply for Cooperative Agreement to Respond to Lead Exposure Caused by Tornado

Release Date: 11/01/2011
Contact Information: Chris Whitley, 913-551-7394, whitley.christopher@epa.gov

Environmental News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Kansas City, Kan., Nov. 1, 2011) - EPA Region 7 is urging officials of the City of Joplin, Mo., to apply to the Agency for an agreement that would fund soil sampling and remediation at properties where lead-contaminated soils were exposed as a result of the May 22 tornado and subsequent demolition, excavation and tree-removal work.

In a letter to EPA on October 3, Joplin Mayor Michael R. Woolston and City Manager Mark Rohr asked the Agency and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) for financial assistance in addressing as many as 1,500 lead-contaminated residential properties in the tornado-impacted areas of the city. Preliminary testing by the Jasper County Health Department has found elevated average levels of lead in yard soils at 19 of 43 properties that were sampled since the tornado, the city’s letter said.

In a reply letter sent October 31, EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks acknowledges a county health ordinance, passed in 2006 as part of EPA’s Superfund process, that requires lead sampling prior to redevelopment in the historic mining and smelter-impacted areas of the county.

“As discussed in our recent conversations, it has been agreed that the city would apply to the EPA for a cooperative agreement to assist in responding to this newly discovered lead contamination due to historic lead mining as the properties are redeveloped,” Brooks’ letter says.

Such an agreement, on approval by EPA, will provide funding from the Superfund Program to conduct confirmation sampling to guide the excavation of contaminated soil, and provide clean backfill soil to restore properties and prevent lead exposures at the surface, the letter says. As part of the agreement, MDNR will provide unspecified matching requirements of funding or in-kind services, as well as a repository location to dispose of contaminated soil, the letter says.

Given the scale of rebuilding that Joplin faces, Brooks’ letter notes: “A multi-year cooperative agreement that is incrementally funded, would best address the situation. A work plan addressing the restoration methods of these properties to similar protective condition as the properties addressed by the prior EPA residential cleanup actions in the Joplin area should be included with your cooperative agreement application for our review.”

Brooks’ letter to the city leaders concludes: “The EPA in partnership with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the city of Joplin and Jasper County is proud to be able to respond to this need and support the rebuilding efforts in your community.”

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Learn more about EPA Region 7’s response to the Joplin tornado

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