Cleanup of lead-contaminated site may be insufficient

A federally ordered cleanup at a lead-contaminated site in Muhlenberg Township, Pennsylvania, is winding down, but public health experts are worried that the cleanup isn’t sufficient to protect future users of the property.

According to a September 24, 2018 article in the Reading Eagle, recent soil tests on the property—currently the site of a 100-bed personal care home—showed that lead levels still exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety standards. Lead contamination at the site came from a company that ran a lead smelter nearby for many decades. The smelting operation was suspended in 2013.

The Eagle reported that the EPA left sloped and wooded areas on the site untreated because of expected lower exposure risk in those locations, and that the agency plans to require that the property deed have an environmental covenant, which will list the site’s environmental hazards.

But Mary Jean Brown of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said the cleanup isn’t extensive enough.

“My fear would be they end up selling the property to a day care center,” said Brown, adjunct assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences and former chief of lead-poisoning prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s going to be an issue as long as the contamination remains, not only for the people living there now, but also for future uses.”

Read the Reading Eagle article: Coming Clean: EPA cleaned lead-contaminated soil at Muhlenberg personal care home

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