When the tornado tore through Joplin and Duquesne in southwest Mo. in May 2011, not only did it kill 161 people and destroy thousands of buildings, it also unearthed something dangerous:
chat contaminated with lead and cadmium from the area’s mining past.
Cleanup of yards and parks is underway with money from the Environmental Protection Agency and more money has been announced.
The EPA is providing an additional $2.4 million from the Superfund program for soil cleanup. Last December, the EPA provided half a million dollars for Joplin to hire a remediation coordinator and pay for equipment, testing services, contaminated soil excavation and clean soil replacement.
The money is expected to allow the city to replace soils and restore yards at 240 homes, parks, playgrounds and child-occupied properties over the next three years.
EPA Region Seven Administrator Karl Brooks says repeated lead exposure can have negative health impacts on children.
"Their brains don't develop as fast, their ability to process information goes down," says Brooks. "And it has other kinds of physiological impacts that we're only just beginning to understand. There's really no safe amount of lead for a child to have in her blood."
Since Joplin’s remediation coordinator began working under EPA’s first funding in April, 26 residential yards have been cleaned up, 21 other properties are underway and 28 are confirmed for and await remediation.
Last December, due to the contamination stirred up by the tornado, Joplin passed an ordinance requiring soil testing for everyone in the disaster zone prior to issuing a building permit.