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Thursday November 21st 2019

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Letter to the community: Pesticide pollution is perplexing: Arsenic 1938 to 2019

The StarTribune article entitled “Superfund Site Mostly Clean,” Aug. 1, 2019, B1, page 1, is incomplete and leaves questions unanswered.

For example, reporting that there are only nine property owners who refused soil testing does not tell the whole story.Though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tracking this, the number of properties refusing testing puts the onus or blame on the property owners as if they are the only problem remaining.

When the EPA tested a total of 472 yards, it refused to test outside a three-quarter mile radius of the original site of contamination at 28th and Hiawatha. This three-quarter mile parameter limits our knowledge of how far out arsenic soil contamination extends. So, we do not have a true measure of how far out and how many properties are still contaminated with arsenic.

In addition, the StarTribune article refers to East Phillips alone, as if the wind only blew the arsenic pesticide in one direction from 1938-1968 when the Reade pesticide plant was in operation. There are other surrounding communities where 18 inches of topsoil was removed in Seward, Longfellow and Corcoran as was done in Phillips. And, as can be seen in the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) photo of the Arsenic Triangle at E. 28th St. and Hiawatha Ave., the contaminated soil was removed but relocated to where? What community received this contaminated soil?

Early on during testing the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) reported that ground water was contaminated, as there are aquifers below our community. The results of monitoring these aquifers are not given by the MDA. There is a potential for groundwater cross-contamination where local existing wells can contaminate from one aquifer to another. While wells are not utilized today for potable drinking water use, there are still wells in south Minneapolis that are used, for example, in cooling towers.  Reporting on ground water results and testing soils further out would ensure that the EPA, MDH and the MDA have sufficiently tested for arsenic water and soil contamination in south Minneapolis.

Inadequate reporting by the StarTribune and the lack of data transparency without sufficient explanation leads to the false conclusion that arsenic could not potentially have been spread and contaminating the soil and water in our community.

H. LYNN ADELSMAN

EDITORIAL NOTE: The arsenic contamination spread in a large radius centered at the Reade Arsenic Distribution facility at 28th and Hiawatha – commonly called the Arsenic Triangle, due to its shape – is currently the site of Smiley’s Clinic. This issue was consistently covered in The Alley Newspaper from January of 2005 through April of 2010 largely through the voluntary contributions of investigative reporting by H. Lynn Adelsman. She wrote 14 articles that exemplify the tremendous work by her and the seriousness of this problem. Additional articles were also printed during that span of years in eight other articles and public notices. This extensive covering of the arsenic pollution was a factor in bringing awareness to residents and businesses in this area of Phillips Community and neighborhoods east of Phillips in being designated as a federal Superfund site. Articles available at alleynews.org/archives/arsenic and at the Franklin Community Library and Hennepin County Central Library. The first article was entitled: “Pesticide pollution is perplexing,” The Alley Newspaper, Jan. 2005, page 1 

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