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Science and the Environment

EPA Provides Additional $2.5 Million to Joplin's Lead Contamination Clean-up

Photo by Missy Shelton

The new federal funding comes from the EPA's Superfund Program in hopes that residents will continue to rebuild in areas affected by the May 2011 tornado.

208 residential yards along with a few city parks have been decontaminated in the more than two years since the storm, says Dan Pekarek, director of the Joplin Health Department. The $2.5 million in additional funds will go toward soil testing, excavation, and replacement for residents who want to rebuild.  

Pekarek says that due to the contamination, Joplin City Council recently passed an ordinance requiring lead and cadmium testing when rebuilding any residential home due to the severity of the contamination.

"They have tested about 1,230 properties that were residential properties. Of those 1,230, about 465 have come back with a portion of the yard that needs to be replaced," said Pekarek.

Many homes in Joplin were built on historic mining areas or areas that used mine waste as fill material. The EPA has been cleaning up mine and smelter waste there since the mid-1990s.  After the tornado hit, devastating people and the environment alike, more lead contamination was found, explains EPA region 7 spokesmen, Chris Whitley.

"There is still quite a bit of work to do. And the objective of the EPA providing this money is so that the little pockets can be addressed and neighborhoods can be rebuilt and life can get back to a normal sense for people," said Whitley.

Related: Our 2012 report examining the environmental impacts of the Joplin tornado one year later.

The city says there are about 500 lots that have not yet been tested but are likely to be contaminated. Pekarek says if people do end up rebuilding on those lots, the proper testing and clean-up will be provided by the new grant.

"Hopefully, by doing this kind of a process, by doing this very intense testing and replacement process we are going to alleviate a significant portion of the problem. We are certainly making great strides in getting that old mining legacy, if you will, removed from the community," said Pekarek.

The EPA reports the clean-up of lead contamination has gone faster than most expected and they hope to continue helping Joplin in its efforts to safety rebuild.