Contact 2: Elmwood Chemical Spill

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NORTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. (KPLR) – Chemical contamination brings the EPA to a St. Louis County neighborhood.  Residents worry about solvents used by a business near their homes.

Residents of Elmwood Park are worried about their health and the future of their neighborhood near Page and Dielman.

Valerie West bought her house twelve years ago.  She moved after relatives became ill. 'I`m angry I`m afraid, I don`t know what`s down the road health wise.'

In 1988 the Missouri Dept of Natural Resources confirmed solvents used by Missouri Metals were released onto the plant grounds.  There appeared to be no risk.  But last summer the Environmental Protection Agency found high levels of contaminants.  Homeowner Larney Shannon wants answers.  ‘Why can`t they be honest about what`s happened? Why couldn`t they tell people.   They knew the pollution was out here.'

The company is collecting in home air and soil samples.  Last December they reported elevated levels of Trichloroethylene or T-C-E.  Chris Whitley of the EPA explains what happens next.  'Our investigation is ongoing and we will continue to step outward from the areas where we find detections.'

High level T-C-E exposure impacts the central nervous system, the immune system, kidney and liver function and the male reproductive system.  The chemical can enter the home through vapor intrusion from underground.  Five homes have a vapor mitigation device installed according to Whitley.  'It`s a fairly simple ventilation system that sucks air out of the lower levels of the home.'

The tests found T-C-E in Blanche Henley's home. But the cancer survivor was told it wasn't high enough to warrant the mitigation device.  Henley doesn`t understand that.  'My house should also be cleaned out, get the contamination out of my house. Because it`s positive and its upstairs and downstairs.

The National Toxicology Program at the CDC says T-C-E is "Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."  Chronic illnesses have hit many of the families living in Elmwood according to Valerie West.  'Two of my neighbors passed away.  My neighbor`s baby passed away.  My mother also passed away from cancer.  And now my son 26 years old is ill with a rare heart condition.'

We'll stay in touch with the folks at the Environmental Protection Agency so we can tell you when they'll return to Elmwood Park

If you have consumer issues call us at Contact 2.  The toll free number is 800-782-2222.  Volunteers take calls Monday through Thursday between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm.

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