50 yards near insecticide plant have pollutants

May 22, 2012 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Federal environmental officials say lawns of 50 residents near an old insecticide plant in Louisville show elevated levels of contaminants.

Art Smith, the on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency, told The Courier-Journal on Monday that nine homes had levels high enough to prompt a cleanup.

It has taken more than 25 years for the area to be tested for contamination. When the current owner of the old insecticide plant sought permission to put in housing, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management took soil samples and found high levels of pesticides, including the now-banned DDT, as well as toxic heavy metals.

Last year the state turned the investigation and cleanup over to the EPA's Superfund program, which deals with the nation's most polluted properties.

Smith says the letters sent to property owners notifying them of pollutants "is just the first step for us."

He said the EPA is in the midst of negotiations with businesses that are potentially liable, but there's not a schedule yet for any further testing or cleanup.

Smith said some of the contaminants found included arsenic, lead and DDT. The EPA declined to release the results of its testing without a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which can take weeks.

The results concerned Carl Hilton, executive director of the West Jefferson County Community Task Force, who said some residents grow produce in the contaminated soil and no public authorities are helping them understand the risk of eating that food.

Smith said residents should be patient because cleaning up the area could take several months.

Two companies - ExxonMobil and Maxus Energy Corp. - have acknowledged working with the EPA on a possible cleanup of the insecticide plant because of ties they have to companies that formerly operated at the site.

The property's current owner, Louisville Industrial Park LLC, has said through its attorney that it has no liability.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com

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