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EPA Region 7 Announces Proposed Deletion of 1,154 Properties from National Priorities List at the Omaha Lead Superfund Site

Release Date: 06/04/2013
Contact Information: Chris Whitley, 913-551-7394 (office), 816-518-2794 (Blackberry), whitley.christopher@epa.gov

Environmental News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Lenexa, Kan., June 4, 2013) - National and regional EPA officials, along with state and local leaders, gathered today in Omaha, Neb., to announce EPA’s proposed deletion of 1,154 properties from the National Priorities List (NPL) at the Omaha Lead Superfund Site, a first official signal of completed cleanup for part of the nation’s largest residential lead remediation site.

“Today’s action is a significant milestone, the first in what will be a series of similar actions by EPA in the coming years to conclude our work at this site,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. “This step in the Superfund process begins the culmination of nearly 15 years of cooperation by EPA, contractors, the City of Omaha, Douglas County, the State of Nebraska, neighborhood organizations and local residents, to clean up toxic lead from this community.”

EPA’s Omaha mission dates back to 1998, when the Omaha City Council solicited the Agency’s assistance in addressing problems with lead contamination in area soils. The following year, EPA began working in Omaha to identify and remove lead from residential properties, as well as public parks, playgrounds, and child care facilities. In 2003, the Omaha Lead Site was placed on the NPL, designating it as one of the nation’s most serious hazardous waste sites.

Today’s announcement, outlined in a notice published in the Federal Register, proposes an initial delisting from the NPL of 1,154 of the 11,425 properties within the Omaha Lead Site that have been cleaned up, to date. Under the National Contingency Plan, such properties that have undergone cleanup may be deleted from the NPL if it is determined that all appropriate response and remedial actions have been taken and the prior hazardous releases on those properties pose no significant threats to public health or the environment.

A public comment period for the proposed delisting begins today and runs through July 5, 2013. All comments must be submitted in writing, and clearly marked with the docket ID number (EPA-HQ-SFUND-2003-0010). There are five ways to submit comments:

  • Online at www.regulations.gov
  • By email, to the attention of Pauletta France-Isetts, at france-isetts.pauletta@epa.gov
  • By fax, to the attention of Pauletta France-Isetts, at 913-551-7066
  • By mail: EPA Region 7, ATTN: Pauletta France-Isetts, 8600 NE Underground Dr., Pillar 253, Kansas City, MO 64161
  • By hand delivery to: EPA Region 7, Superfund Division, ATTN: Pauletta France-Isetts, 11201 Renner Boulevard, Lenexa, KS 66219
The Federal Register notice is available online.

To date, EPA has sampled more than 41,176 properties in Omaha for lead, and has completed cleanups of 11,425 residential yards. Currently about 2,000 sampled properties with elevated levels of lead in soils remain to be cleaned up, and EPA is working to obtain access to sample soils at another 2,300 properties. Aided by favorable weather, long outdoor construction seasons and a continued record-setting work pace for soil remediation, EPA and its contractors anticipate that the cleanups should be completed by 2015, clearing the way for additional properties to be deleted from the NPL.

Brooks noted that the lead cleanup’s main objective, to protect current and future generations of Omaha’s children from health hazards associated with lead poisoning, has already proven to be a success. The percentage of children in eastern Omaha tested with elevated blood lead levels has been reduced from nearly 33 percent prior to 1998, to less than two percent today.

The cleanup is also paying significant economic benefits, Brooks said. To date, EPA’s total investments of $279.5 million at the Omaha Lead Site have contributed to community revitalization and redevelopment, improvement of property values, local employment and economic growth.

Through EPA contracts that are competed, contractors have provided more than $127 million in spending so far on local materials and local labor, adding about 300 high-paying ($23 to $30 per hour) seasonal jobs to the local economy for each of the past five years. EPA has also awarded $142,890 through a cooperative agreement to the Omaha Metropolitan Community College to provide job training and certifications to local workers, helping to build a skilled labor force to assist in the cleanup, and for future employment beyond the site.

EPA’s related investments in Omaha’s public health education and protection include cooperative agreements of $9.2 million to the City of Omaha for paint stabilization and database development, $4.5 million to the Douglas County Health Department for interior home assessments, $205,000 to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) to support its work at the Omaha Lead Site, and a $50,000 technical assistance grant to the Lead Safe Omaha Coalition.

Lead in surface soils poses a serious health risk to children six years of age and younger, and to pregnant women. Lead poisoning can result in learning and behavioral problems, hearing problems, diminished IQ, and kidney damage. EPA also classifies lead as a possible cancer-causing agent.

Parents are urged to have children six years of age and younger tested for lead each year. Testing is available through most local family physicians, and from the Douglas County Health Department.
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