More homes test positive for toxic air in St. Louis County

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by John Knicely / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on September 13, 2012 at 8:46 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 13 at 9:51 PM

ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) -- More residents have learned they’ve been breathing toxic air in their St. Louis County homes.  The new results show 2 of 5 homes tested have elevated levels of TCE, a chemical that can cause cancer and chronic disease.  That makes 5 out of 10 homes in the Elmwood neighborhood near Overland.  Those 5 homes have tested positive for elevated levels of TCE. 

Many residents are just now learning of the danger that stems from Missouri Metals, a manufacturing plant near the neighborhood.  The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has known about the potential danger for more than 30 years.

“I think they need to do more testing,” said Angelica Cleveland whose home tested positive for elevated levels.  “They should have been on top of it from the beginning.”

Testing of groundwater over the past 20 years has shown that levels of TCE were not dangerous.  But in the past decade scientists have learned that the chemical can vaporize.  The recent testing focuses on air inside the homes.

“Comes up through the ground in a vapor and it can accumulate in a home,” said Chris Whitley, EPA spokesman.  “If we find it at a certain level through this testing, we know this poses a health risk.”

And now they’ve found it at that level in 5 homes.

Now the Environmental Protection Agency and Missouri Department of Natural Resources are installing Vapor Intrusion Mitigation ventilation systems to rid the homes of the dangerous chemical. 

The unanswered question is how long have residents been breathing this toxic air?  Many residents point to family and friends who died from cancer and other illnesses.

“My biggest concern is my mom and dad died very young,” said Cleveland who moved into the home in the 1960’s.  “And my mom used to get spells where she got very sick.”

One of the biggest frustrations from residents is that the EPA and DNR are testing a handful of homes at a time.  Depending on the results they expand the radius to test more homes.  Some residents outside the current radius have moved out of their homes out of fear.   Some have hired attorneys and paid for their own testing to be done.

The EPA stresses that there is no danger to drinking water in the area.  And they insist that there is no “immediate” threat.

Perkin Elmer is the parent company of the plan responsible for the cleanup.  The toxic chemical still sits in the ground near the plant.  Perkin Elmer is paying for all cleanup, testing, and mitigation.  There is a lot left to do and News 4 will stay on top of it.

 

 

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