U.S. agency to help clean up lead from Joplin tornado

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 19, 2011 3:38 AM
U.S. agency to help clean up lead from Joplin tornado

KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - The Environmental Projection Agency on Friday said it is giving $500,000 to the city of Joplin, Missouri to clean up property contaminated by lead in a devastating May 22 tornado.

The EF-5 tornado ripped through buildings containing lead and stirred up soil atop old lead mines, causing some 1,500 residential properties to become contaminated, city officials said in October. The mayor and city manager asked the EPA for help.

A sampling of 43 properties by the Jasper County Health Department found 19 had elevated lead levels. The tornado damaged or destroyed about 8,000 buildings and took 161 lives.

The EPA grant, derived from its Superfund program, will pay for two staff people to inspect and test soil and coordinate a plan, as well as pay for equipment. City officials estimated that cleaning up 1,500 properties could ultimately cost an average of $5,000 each or $7.5 million.

In the early 1990s, the EPA launched widespread cleanup in Joplin because of soils contaminated by lead and cadmium. Lead testing has long been required prior to building projects, but the cost of doing so exceeds the means of most residents, city officials said.

(Reporting and writing by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Greg McCune)