CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — For years, experts have been trying to get rid of lead left behind in the soil from industrial work.
The EPA, TDEC and the Hamilton County Health Department are now working to come up with a program that is primarily focused on the health of children.
The Chattanooga of the 60’s, once called the dirtiest city in the country, is no longer the home of heavy industry, but the soil is still a potential health issue. The Hamilton County Regional Health Council today announced plans to focus on the health of children, and their possible exposure to lead and other contaminants.
The EPA has targeted 8 neighborhoods, where elevated levels of lead have already been found. Right now, 531 properties have been identified as having high levels of lead in the soil. There are still over 4 thousand lawns that need to be tested. But, the EPA says it needs the residents to sign access agreement forms, to allow the testing to be done.
“For sampling, we will accept it from the tenant, as we try to do further investigation to reach out to the owner to get authorization from them as well,” said Jasmin Jefferies, the EPA Remedial Project Manager for the South Side Chattanooga Lead Site.
But if the levels are found to be high, the property owner would need to sign the access agreement, too.
“Should your lead concentration be over the 360 parts per million, we do need to clean up the property,” said Ms. Jefferies.
The EPA right now is mitigating about 200 properties per year.
Although the health of the children with lead in their bloodstreams is the main concern, some children who are at risk do not live in the EPA’s targeted areas, and some children who do live in the targeted areas may not have elevated levels of lead in their blood.
“It could potentially pose as something else and then you come back and it is actually a high elevated lead level but at the same time the child may be diagnosed with ADHD, or various other things, and it could be linked back to lead poisoning,” said Maranda Clark, Health Program Manager, for Childhood Poison Prevention.
The 8 neighborhoods targeted by the EPA for lead mitigation are:
Alton Park, Cowart Place, East Lake, Highland Park, Jefferson Heights, Oak Grove, Richmond and Southside Gardens.