Mpls. Residents Voice Concerns about Toxic Chemical Vapors

Posted at: 11/12/2013 4:21 PM
Updated at: 11/13/2013 7:26 AM
By: Stephen Tellier

It's a cancer-causing chemical, and it could be seeping into hundreds of homes. On Tuesday, dozens of neighbors demanded answers at two open houses held to answer the questions of concerned residents.

State officials want to test homes in a southeast Minneapolis neighborhood to determine whether residents there are at risk.

"I'm here because I'm really concerned about this TCE vapor, and I think it's intruding in my home," said Victoria Bowman, who attended one of the open houses.

Bowman has lived on 21st Avenue Southeast in Minneapolis for 24 years.

"It makes me mad that I could be having some issues in my home that could be making me really, really sick," Bowman said.

"I was very, very aware of the situation in the past and had ignored it, and I shouldn't have," said Jake Jacobi.

He's lived in the area for 38 years. For him, health is a concern, but selling his home is a larger one.

"How are you going to find a buyer? What are you going to tell a prospective buyer?" Jacobi said.

The root of the problems lie at 21st and Talmage, which is now a Superfund site. A dangerous chemical, TCE, was dumped there decades ago, and it got into the groundwater. It can cause a range of problems from cancer to birth defects.

Last week, the state mailed letters to about 200 homes in the area, warning them that TCE vapors were discovered in the soil. Now, they're asking residents to let them find out if the vapors are getting in their homes.

"The only way to get that is to do the sampling in the homes," said Hans Neve, with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

At Tuesday's open houses, officials laid the issue out to residents -- face to face.

"We want them to come away from this meeting understanding some history of the site, how we got here, and what's needed in the future," Neve said.

For Jacobi, he might need to delay selling his home. And that may be the least of the problems in that neighborhood.

"The situation has the potential to be a real problem for me and any number of other neighborhood residents," Jacobi said.

If officials find those chemical vapors inside basements, there is a quick and easy fix that won't cost residents a dime. And if everyone gives permission to test inside their homes quickly, officials said they could likely test every home in a matter of weeks.

Click here for information from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.