Whose Risk Is It, Anyway?

by Brian Pinkowski, Proj. Mgr.; Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8, Denver, CO,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1993, Vol. 63, Issue 10, Pg. 66-68

Document Type: Feature article


Near the now-closed Smuggler Mine in Aspen, Colo. toxic lead sits beneath the grass of area residents' yards. A major portion of soil in the area has lead above the EPA action level of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) soil lead for the site. Some areas contain more than 10,000 ppm soil lead in the top 2 in. of soil. To address this situation, EPA has proposed to clean the site, at a cost of approximately $10 million, by removing the top foot of soil containing over 1,000 ppm of lead from the residential yards and replacing it with clean soil and new landscaping. The agency would also remove the exposed soils from publicly-accessible areas and place it in a remote mound to be covered and secured. Ordinarily, such exposure to a toxic substance would cause concern among potentially affected citizens. They would insist on a rapid and total cleanup. In Aspen, however, and other communities (such as Palmerton, Pa. and the Triumph Mine near Sun City, ID) where residents have grown up playing on lead contaminated soil with no obvious adverse effects, the proposal for such a cleanup is met with skepticism. This skepticism increases as a community learns that the consequences of low level lead exposure in most children cannot be detected without the use of sophisticated laboratory equipment and statistical influences. Residents fear that disturbing the lead-laden soils may increase exposure levels.

Subject Headings: Lead (chemical) | Toxicity | Soil pollution | Environmental Protection Agency | Vegetation | Statistics | Landscaping

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