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Private Homes Contaminated Near Black Leaf Site; What’s Next?

Soil testing in the yards of fifty homes bordering the former Black Leaf Chemical site in Louisville’s Park Hill neighborhood recently revealed carcinogenic chemicals in all of them. The Environmental Protection Agency found toxic contamination at the 29-acre Black Leaf site itself in 2010, but scientists weren’t sure how far it had spread beyond site boundaries. Now, testing has revealed levels of heavy metals, pesticides and other toxic substances in some 50 private yards near the site.

Friday on Byline, WFPL’s environment reporter Erica Peterson sat down with Metro Councilman David James to discuss the findings and what approaches the EPA may take to address the problem.

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EPA Finds Contamination in All Homes Tested Near Black Leaf Site

Soil testing in the yards of fifty homes bordering the former Black Leaf Chemical site in Louisville’s Park Hill neighborhood has revealed levels of carcinogens in all of them. And nine of those homes had even higher levels of contamination.

The Environmental Protection Agency found toxic contamination at the 29-acre Black Leaf site in 2010, but scientists weren’t sure how far it had spread. Now, testing has revealed levels of heavy metals, pesticides and other toxic substances in 50 individual yards near the site. EPA On-Scene Coordinator Art Smith says all of the yards tested exceeded screening thresholds for at least one chemical.

“On the screening levels, it doesn’t mean that cleanup is necessary or that health risks are imminent. It just highlights potential chemicals that may need further investigation,” he said.

But nine of the homes tested had even higher levels of contamination, and exceeded a higher threshold the agency calls the Removal Management Level. These homes showed high levels of either lead or benzo(a)pyrene. In high levels, lead can cause intellectual development problems in children, and benzo(a)pyrene is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and a probable human carcinogen.

Smith says it’s too soon to say if the levels are dangerous for the homeowners or how–or whether–the EPA will remediate the areas.