Tuesday Open House Discusses Como Neighborhood Toxic Vapors

Updated: 03/25/2014 10:15 AM
Created: 03/03/2014 11:31 AM
By: Megan Stewart

Testing for a dangerous chemical derived from a cleaning solvent left over from an old General Mills plant in a southeast Minneapolis neighborhood shows more than 100 homes will need to take steps to reduce toxin levels.

Soil vapor levels in 111 of 166 homes, or about two-thirds, in the Como neighborhood have been shown to be contaminated with a the chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE, according to General Mills.

The TCE is evaporating underground, causing the dangerous vapors. It is believed the toxin is left over from a General Mills site that conducted research from the 1940s to 1960s.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, TCE can pose a hazard to central nervous and male reproductive systems, along with the kidneys and liver.

However, the biggest threat is to the immune system and developing fetuses, the EPA said.

In order to mitigate the threat, the infected homes have been offered a vapor ventilation system, which is paid for by General Mills. The systems are installed in the basement and direct vapors away from the home, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The danger to the Como neighborhood wasn't discovered until 1981, and it took nearly three decades to largely decontaminate the groundwater.

Ongoing studies have uncovered toxic levels since November, when the state warned hundreds of people living in the Como neighborhood that the chemical could be seeping into their basements, and the air they breathe.

In all, 182 properties will be tested for TCE, General Mills said.

An informational open house will be held on March 25 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Van Cleve Recreation Center.

More information from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency can be found here.

A map showing the areas believed to be impacted by the dangerous TCE chemical.
Photo: Website/Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

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