Friday, October 17, 2003

Removal of lead from yards starts next week

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LIBERTY TWP. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that dirt excavation will begin next week just outside the Lexington Manor subdivision on the first of four yards to the east where elevated levels of lead have been found.

Levels of lead just over the most stringent standard of 400 parts per million for bare soil areas recently were detected just inside three back yards along Megan Drive, said Steven Renninger, the on-scene coordinator in the Superfund division of the U.S. EPA's Cincinnati office.

Elevated levels of lead, including one reading as high as nearly 70,000 parts per million, also were found in a fourth yard, directly adjacent Lexington Manor to the east off Millikin Road, he said.

While elevated lead levels are a health concern, they are not high enough to be considered hazardous, he stressed. The lead-tainted dirt will be removed by excavators and workers in hazmat-like suits and then trucked to a nonhazardous dump in Dayton, he said.

The contamination on the four yards came from lead-shot pellets fired on 25 acres that used to hold a skeet shooting range that shut down in 1969, where Lexington Manor was built in 2001, he said.

"It's not far over there. It's just barely across the property line," he said of the contamination on the Megan Drive yards.

Last summer, the EPA sought to test two yards to the west of Lexington Manor; one has come back OK, Renninger said. The second has not been tested because its owner refused consent, he added.

Lead became a concern in the area last year after high levels were found in yards at Lexington Manor. Arsenic also was found.

Despite lead remediation efforts attempted by Lexington Manor's developer, Lexington Manor Inc., on the land in 2000 before homes were built, the contaminants still were found in yards in that subdivision.

Renninger declined Thursday to release the addresses of the three Megan Drive homes, saying the last of three letters mailed to those residents went out Wednesday, alerting them of the cleanup.

The U.S. EPA is paying for the estimated $500,000 cleanup of the four yards outside Lexington Manor, Renninger said.

Susan Prout, associate regional counsel for the U.S. EPA's Chicago office, said Thursday it is not known yet if the agency will be able to recover the costs from a responsible party, typically the past and/or present landowner.

"We're trying to see who may be responsible," Prout said. "It's a difficult road at this point."

The builder of Lexington Manor, Ryland Homes, is not involved, she said.

About 10,000 soil samples have been taken at Lexington Manor to determine the full extent of contamination. Once that is known, dirt excavation will take place, expected now to start in January and last three to six months.


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