The actions are among the latest results of a USA TODAY investigation last month revealing that hundreds of neighborhoods face potential health risks from lead left in the soil by forgotten factories that operated during the 1930s to 1960s.
The toxic dust they left behind can remain in soil for hundreds of years, putting kids at risk of lost intelligence and other health problems if they put dust-covered hands or toys in their mouths.MORE: Complete coverage of Ghost Factories investigation
The Kentucky Division of Waste Management released results of its soil tests at the former Certified Metals Manufacturing site in Newport showing lead levels up to 5,502 parts per million. The site is next to homes where USA TODAY's tests found potentially hazardous levels of lead, up to 2,485 ppm, in residential yards. The hazard level for bare soil where children play is 400 ppm.
"There definitely has been a release of lead on the property that does need to be addressed," Tim Hubbard of the Kentucky Division of Waste Management said Thursday. The division has notified the current owner of the need for further testing. The state has not yet decided whether off-site testing is needed, he said.
Historical fire insurance maps show the site — now a tool and die shop — operated as the Newport Foundry Co. as far back as 1910. From at least 1949 to 1954, industry directories show the site was home to Certified Metals Mfg. Co., which made babbitt and solder, mixed metals that often contained lead. Newport is across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Although Certified Metals was on a list of forgotten factory sites given by a researcher to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2001, Kentucky regulators were unaware of the site until contacted by USA TODAY.
Debra Winkle, who has lived a few doors down from the site for more than 30 years, said she was shocked to hear about the state's test results. "I definitely want them to look into it and investigate," she said Thursday. Winkle said she worries about the safety of two children who live next door and doubts that people in the neighborhood know of the potential for contamination in their soil. "I greatly appreciate you checking into all of this for us," she said.
USA TODAY tested surface soil in the area because it's the top layer that people are most likely to touch. Kentucky regulators were unable to do surface soil sampling at the former foundry site because the area not covered by buildings is capped with a layer of gravel that's 4 to 6 inches thick, according to Hubbard and the state's investigation report.
The state used a probe to collect subsurface samples, but the report says it often encountered layers of fill material, including metallic debris and slag, which is often a byproduct of smelting. In general, contamination was higher toward the surface, Hubbard said.
Although the contamination "could represent a likely health risk if unmanaged, it does not appear to be a significant source of lead," the report said. The report estimates that smelting operations ceased at the site at least 50 years ago. "There has been no evidence provided to suggest that the current owners of the property have ever engaged in smelting," the report said.
Still, the property owner will be asked to prepare an action plan to address the contamination, the report noted. Hubbard said that even though the company responsible for the pollution that did the polluting closed long ago, state law makes the person who currently possesses the contamination responsible for addressing it. The state has asked L&H Tool and Die to provide an initial response by June 19.
Jason Morgan, an attorney for L&H Tool and Die, which does aluminum stampings at the site, said his client has received the state's test results and has hired an environmental engineering firm to help advise them. Morgan noted that L&H never operated a lead smelter on the property. "They are the unfortunate legacy purchasers of this property," Morgan said, adding that the company will "respond appropriately."
Meanwhile in Oregon, state regulators plan to begin testing residential yards in late June or early July around the former site of the Multnomah Metal Works in Portland, which had operated for 65 years before it was demolished in 1975 and a home was built atop the site.
The state is now working to educate residents about the potential hazards and their plan for testing the area's soil. "We plan to get out and do some door-to-door work either next week or the week after," said Scott Manzano, project manager at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The state also plans to meet with the local neighborhood association on June 6, he said.
Soil tests by the state and by USA TODAY found high levels of lead in the yard of the home on the smelter site. USA TODAY's tests also found high levels of lead at two nearby homes.
Manzano said the owner of the former smelter property has entered into an agreement with the state to do further soil testing to determine the extent of the contamination in the yard. "We're tentatively thinking there will be some soil removal," he said.
In Indiana, tests near the site of the former Pb Co. factory in Silver Lake do not indicate a contamination problem, said Amy Hartsock, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Seven samples of soil collected on the former factory property showed lead levels well below hazard standards: just 21 to 94 ppm, Hartsock said. The site had been been the subject of a private cleanup in 2006-2007, which included addressing lead levels of up to 4,000 ppm, as part of a property sale, she said in an email.
Hartsock said that no samples were taken in the yards of nearby homes because residents weren't home to give permission at the time investigators did the testing. Instead, three samples were taken in rights of way areas along nearby roads and also found low levels of lead: just 11 to 54 ppm, Hartsock said.
Hartsock said the department is confident that because the factory only operated only for about three years that the contamination was confined to the property.
|Posted 5/24/2012 5:59 PM ET|
|Updated 5/25/2012 12:20 PM ET|