Monday, December 16, 2013

Residents sue General Mills over TCE soil pollution

Soil vapor intrusion fears for Minneapolis homeowners

Two class-action lawsuits were filed against General Mills by residents in the Como neighborhood of southeast Minneapolis, where state-ordered testing has shown troubling concentrations of the pollutant TCE in soil below their homes.

Updated results have been published as of Friday morning for 58 of roughly 200 homes in the target area, southwest of a former General Mills facility where solvents containing TCE (trichloroethylene) were dumped decades ago and filtered into soil and groundwater. Thirty-seven have turned up with higher-than-acceptable levels of the chemical.

Testing has been completed at another 16 properties, but results haven’t been released, and has been arranged but not completed at another 65 properties, according to a map published by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), which is overseeing the cleanup project.
TCE exposure has been linked to
cancer and other health concerns.

Three property owners refused testing.

Prolonged exposure to high TCE levels has been linked to elevated risks of cancer and other health problems.

A contractor funded by General Mills is installing ventilation systems — commonly used to remove radon from homes — in the problem properties to prevent the harmful buildup of TCE.

Since the public disclosure of TCE contamination in soil gas in the neighborhood last month, only half of the property owners have scheduled testing of the soil gas below their basements.

The high number of rental homes in the area — many occupied by University of Minnesota students — has added to the challenge of securing testing agreements from the property owners.

However, three attorneys from Minneapolis and Chicago jointly sued in U.S. District Court on behalf of two residents of the Como neighborhood, Karl Ebert and Carol Krauze. And a Minneapolis firm filed a similar suit in Hennepin County District Court on behalf of resident Jill Ruzicka.

Both cases seek class-action status to represent all residents affected by TCE contamination below their homes.

Both were filed ahead of a high-profile community meeting arranged Saturday by Integrated Resource Management, a California firm tied to pollution crusader Erin Brockovich that investigates industrial contamination.

A General Mills representative could not be reached in time for publication.
Source: Star Tribune

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