EPA testing homes near Lees Lane Superfund site


by Chelsea Rabideau


Posted on May 28, 2014 at 11:23 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)– There is a potential problem for people living near the Lees Lane Landfill Superfund site.

Sitting near the Ohio River, it is one of the country’s worst superfund chemical dump sites. Recent tests show gases aren’t venting away from the site like they should. The EPA now wants to go into homes to make sure the health of the people who live there isn’t in jeopardy.

The original chemical of concern at the Lees Lane site many years ago was methane. That is not a concern this time around.

It’s seven other volatile organic chemicals that have turned up in the soil around the site, including benzene, butadiene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride. Now, the EPA needs to figure out if those chemicals have made it to the homes nearby.

Terri Humphrey lives in the Riverside Gardens community near the superfund site.

“We just want out,” she said, “We don’t want to be there anymore. We just want out.”

Humphrey and her family have lived there since 1989, about a year after the EPA finished cleaning up the site. For years, she’s had the same question.

“The chemicals, we’re wanting to know if the chemicals or the gases are coming into our neighborhood,” she asked.

In the 70s, explosive levels of methane gas were detected in several homes nearby. The landfill was closed and several homes were evacuated. In 1980, 400 exposed drums of hazardous materials were discovered next to the landfill and the Ohio River.

Now, the site must be checked every five years to make sure the protections put in place during the cleanup are still working properly. The checkup last year showed a problem with the gas collection system.

“Kentucky DEP took soil samples to see what was coming off the landfill going toward the residences and that did confirm that the gas collection system at the site that should be venting gases is not operating correctly,” Donna Seadler, the remedial project manager for the EPA, explained.

Tell someone they might have dangerous gases leaking into their homes and it’s a conversation that could easily combust.

“The health risks, how long have we been exposed to it, they have no idea,” Humphrey said.

But, the EPA seems to have figured out a way to open the lines of communication with folks who have been living near the Lees Lane landfill for decades.

“The EPA has been a lot better now than it has been and they’re a lot more open and more conversation [is] going back and forth, more communication. So it’s more on a friendlier level,” Humphrey said.

Teams will begin testing the 50 homes closest to the landfill site starting next month. After that, they’ll determine what, if any, further testing needs to be done.

The EPA set up these public availability sessions to offer one-on-one time to residents instead of a large meeting where it can get heated and more difficult to be heard. There will be another session Thursday, May 29th from 6-8 PM at Western High School.