EPA back in Evansville to test, clean contaminated soil

Historic District near Riverside Drive

EPA back in Evansville to test, clean contaminated soil

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The United States Environmental Protection Agency is back in Evansville to test and clean up soil contaminated with arsenic and lead.

They are focusing on the Historic District near Riverside Drive. The project is a continuation of the EPA’s Superfund program that has already cleared soil in the Jacobsville Neighborhood.

The area outlined on the map is where EPA will conduct the bulk of the soil cleanup during the 2019 construction season. Source: EPA
The area outlined on the map is where EPA will conduct the bulk of the soil cleanup during the 2019 construction season. Source: EPA (Source: EPA)

If you live in the Riverside Drive area, expect to see workers, trucks, and excavators.

This second phase encompasses about 4.5 square miles. For the next five years, yards there will reflect teams digging holes, collecting samples, and testing soil for dangerous levels of arsenic and lead.

“No lead level is good, so we just want to try to get it out as best we can,” says Chris Borowiecki, Director of the Environmental Division at the Vanderburgh County Health Department.

The VCHD is assisting the EPA’s efforts to reverse damage done decades ago. Industrial operations like burning coal are believed to have caused toxic dust to settle into Evansville’s soil which can cause serious health concerns, especially for children.

“Slower developmental growth, behavioral issues, learning disabilities, anemia,” says Borowiecki.

In 2004, Jacobsville was among the nation’s most hazardous waste sites. Later testing confirmed a larger area was contaminated.

About 4,000 additional properties in the Historic District will need new soil.

“It’s picking it up through the soil. They get it on them, hand mouth contact and ingesting it, so that’s it and it can be absorbed through the skin. And even for adults it can be an issue for long exposure,” says Borowiecki.

Kurt Schnautz received the EPA notice that his yard is on the list. It is causing him to think twice about his small dog Pee Wee.

“He likes to sniff around in the grass. Sometimes you’ll even catch him eating on something,” says Schnautz.

He notes the EPA has been good with communication, letting them know what they were doing and why. The EPA says they restore the lawns and landscape up to the owner’s satisfaction.

“It’s going to be inconvenient for everyone, but it’s kind of a minor bump in the road considering all of the ramifications of leaving it,” says Schnautz.

The VCHD offers free blood lead testing for children. To schedule a test, call 812-435-5568.

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