NEWS DAY | Update: Initial testing reveals widespread TCE contamination problem in Como neighborhood

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) map (click to view map on MPCA website)

What's new in the Como neighborhood / General Millls / TCE pollution story? Almost a month after the community meetings, dozens of homes have shown problematic levels of TCE, two class action lawsuits have been filed, and testing continues.

MPR reported December 6 that 42 of the first 69 homes tested "were found to be in need of vapor ventilation systems and another 13 homes will be retested because their levels were slightly higher but didn't exceed state limits."

A total of 200 homes have been designated for testing and, if needed, mitigation, paid for by General Mills. A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) map (above) shows the homes being tested.

Bill Huntzicker reported on the issue for the Daily Planet in November:

Some 200 buildings in the Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods may be contaminated with toxic fumes from a chemical used by General Mills in a research center more than 50 years ago.

The chemical, trichloroethylene or TCE, has been detected in vapors escaping from the soil and could seep into the basements of homes, potentially causing various cancers and damaging immune systems, according to officials from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Health Department. ...

General Mills had dumped TCE and other pollutants in a hole behind their building at 2010 E. Hennepin Ave. from 1947 to 1962; the company occupied the facility from 1930 to 1977. Groundwater contamination was confirmed in 1981 and a pump-and-treat system was installed in 1985 and ran until 2010. In the 1980s it had been declared a superfund site.

“The level of understanding at that time was that chemicals that were waste were dumped in the ground and they would go away,” said the PCA’s Hans Neve. “We know now that this doesn’t work. We did not know in 1985, but we know now that vapor can enter your home from contaminated soil.”

Neve said that General Mills will pay the cost of testing and mitigation of any danger, and the PCA will supervise the work.

Two law firms have filed lawsuits against General Mills, with both seeking to be designated as class actions and given the right to sue on behalf of all of the residents.

RELATED STORY: 'Why are we hearing about it now?' Southeast Como residents urged to test for toxic vapors under their homes (Bill Huntzicker, 11/12/2013)

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