During a June 28 public meeting to discuss pollution issues at the University of Minnesota’s UMore Park in Rosemount, many area about what they said has been a lack of transparency about contaminants on the part of the university.
After a formal presentation, residents quickly began vocalizing allegations that officials had lied about contaminants and conditions on the expansive property, located mostly within the . But many still didn’t feel that the questions they raised were answered.
“There’s not full disclosure and I have a problem with that,” said resident Don Sinnwell after that meeting. “It needs to be cleaned up, and it needs to be done properly. And that’s all we’re looking for. I don’t think that’s being done.”
Somewhat lost in the heat of that Thursday night was the disclosure that at least one site thought to have been thoroughly cleaned as part of a 1984 Superfund investigation apparently is still contaminated with hazardous levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead.
A report from a 2006 university investigation shows soils in an area known as George’s Used Equipment—a former electrical salvage tenant that leased the property from the university—contained levels of PCBs 27 times greater than allowable, and levels of lead 2.5 times greater than what was supposed to have remained. Both levels are considered hazardous.
And a 2012 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review of the UMore property apparently will require the university to perform further cleanup of the land.
George’s Used Equipment site
The manufacture of PCBs, once widely used in electrical transformers and a variety of industrial applications, has been banned since 1979. According to the EPA, once the compounds are in the environment they do not readily break down and are known to cause cancer and a suite of other health problems in people exposed to them.
Gary Krueger, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency official who oversees the UMore Park property Superfund sites, told Patch prior to the June 28 meeting that a new five-year review of those sites by the EPA, expected to be released soon, addresses the lingering contamination first discovered in 1984.
That fact was revealed to the assembled crowd June 28, though details were not provided.
“There were some areas that will probably need some further evaluation and possible cleanup actions by the University up in that George’s Used area,” Krueger said. “During this investigation they did find some areas of PCB contamination above what was the cleanup criteria.”
The George’s Used Equipment site—located southeast of the intersection of Babcock Avenue and 153nd Street—is one of four parcels on the that was placed on the National Priorities List for hazardous waste in 1986. The site was listed under the University of Minnesota Rosemount Research Center. Remediation efforts began in 1987 under the Superfund program and lasted through 1994. The site was delisted from the NPL in 2001 after supposedly being fully remediated.
The cleanup criteria for the GUE area stated that soils contaminated with PCBs up to a maximum of 10 parts per million (ppm) could remain within an area known as GUE Shallow. Lead levels were to be cleaned to a maximum of 1,000 ppm.
Approximately 14,800 cubic yards of soil contaminated with PCBs from 10 ppm to 25 ppm were to be consolidated in a smaller parcel known as GUE Deep. Access to GUE Deep is restricted and required to be fenced off to prevent any possible soil disruption.
Other soils at the site were excavated and either incinerated (cleaned) down to a target of 1 ppm and backfilled, or hauled away to out-of-state toxic material waste sites.
The investigation conducted by the university in 2006 found the hazardous-level PCB and lead readings in the GUE Superfund area. That investigation indicated soils containing PCB levels up to 273 ppm and lead levels up to 2,470 ppm still remained on-site.
The 2007 EPA review of the sites did not contain any information on the elevated PCB and lead levels still remaining. Krueger did tell Patch that the remaining contaminants were addressed in the yet-to-be-released 2012 EPA review.
Both Krueger and an official with the EPA said on June 25 that the report had been finalized at that time. Both agencies also said that they were hoping it would be released prior to the June 28 Rosemount meeting.
The University of Minnesota has thus far declined to comment on the pending release of the 2012 EPA review.