Last week Joplin, Mo. city officials requested approximately $7.5 million in federal aid to remedy lead-contamination that the devastating May 22 tornado stirred up.
Not only did the deadly twister rip apart structures that contained lead, but it also disrupted soil under homes constructed on long-abandoned lead mines, according to a letter sent by city officials to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Approximately 1,500 properties are contaminated and cost estimates for clean-up are $5,000 per property, The Kansas City Star reported.
EPA officials reportedly are working with the city to identify and restore the properties, which “will include some type of funding mechanism.”
“High lead levels in the disrupted soil potentially represent a significant liability issue for Joplin, and a safety hazard for our community as well as a possible impediment to our rebuilding efforts,” according to the letter from Joplin Mayor Michael Woolston.
The city has halted issuing building permits for some highly contaminated properties in heavily-damaged areas, the Star reported.
The old lead mines have long been an issue for the area. In fact, in the early 1990s, the EPA began a clean-up effort, which involved hauling contaminated soil and replacing it with clean soil. That effort is still going on, the news report said.
Older homes in the area were built on contaminated fill-material called “chat” that was hauled from the mining operations, and when the tornado ravaged the area the chat was re-exposed, according to the Star.
“This was used by builders before the high lead levels in the chat were realized, because it was fairly cheap and readily available,” according to the city’s letter to the EPA.
The tornado killed 162 people and damaged 7,500 residences throughout the city.