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Congressional District # 05


EPA ID# MNN000509136
Last Updated: March, 2015

Site Description

The South Minneapolis Residential Soil Contamination ("South Minn") site is located in the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota. The site covers an area of approximately 1,480 acres and soil sampling has been conducted at more than 3500 residential properties in an ethnically and economically diverse community. While the area is largely residential, it also contains commercial, industrial, and municipal properties.

The South Minn site is located in close proximity to a former pesticide manufacturing plant. The pesticide plant property was leased and operated by Reade Manufacturing, which made arsenic and/or lead arsenate-based grasshopper pesticides from 1938 through 1963. From 1963 through 1968, U.S. Borax sub-leased the parcel and stored and shipped pesticide products during that time. It is believed that during plant operations, the powder-like arsenic trioxide was periodically blown by the wind off the plant site into the surrounding neighborhoods, which resulted in contaminated soils.

The pesticide plant property itself was owned by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railway from the 1880s through 1985. After the railroad declared  bankruptcy in 1985, the property was transfered to CMC Heartland Partners (CMC) in November 1993. On August 15, 2005, CMC sold the property to 2800 Hiawatha LLC. The CMC Heartland Partners Lite Yard site property has been investigated and it was cleaned up by CMC Heartland Partners in 2004 and 2005 under the oversight of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and other state authorities. The property is now in re-use by a light industrial/commercial facility. 

Site Responsibility

The South Minn site is being addressed through state and federal actions.

Threats and Contaminants

Residential soils at the South Minn site were contaminated by arsenic compounds. The primary potential health threat to area residents is caused by long-term ingestion of contaminated soil, such as by eating root vegetables that were grown in the contaminated soil and not sufficiently washed, or through children digging in soil during play and then eating with dirty hands. A small threat also existed through inhalation of the arsenic in soil dust and by absorption of arsenic through the skin when handing contaminated soil.

The area is serviced by municipal water; therefore, groundwater does not present a current potential health threat that would be caused by drinking or bathing in contaminated water. Minnesota is addressing the potential long-term groundwater health threat through the state cleanup program.

Cleanup Progress

In 1994, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MDOT) investigated the Hiawatha Avenue corridor for road reconstruction and discovered elevated levels of arsenic on the eastern-most part of the former Reade Manufacturing plant property.  With oversight from the MDA’s Agricultural Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup (AgVIC) Program, several organizations, including MDOT, completed investigations of the surrounding area for arsenic contamination. In 1995, CMC Heartland Partners completed soil investigations on its property through the AgVIC Program. Arsenic levels in the surface soil were found to be as high as 5200 parts per million (ppm). By 1996, the operator of the former plant property (an asphalt company) had covered much of the property with one to two feet of clean fill and crushed bituminous asphalt.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), issued two Health Consultations in 1999 and 2001 for the site that described public health hazards and contained recommendations to protect public health. Risks were identified concerning arsenic in the soil that the public could come in contact with. Additionally, the Health Consultations expressed concern about the possibility of highly-contaminated dust being windblown off of the former Reade plant property and affecting residential properties in the Phillips Neighborhood located just to the northwest of the property. ATSDR and MDH considered an arsenic concentration of 110 ppm in soil as being an acute exposure.

In 2001 and 2003, MDA and MDH performed limited soil investigations in residential yards. One hundred sixty-seven properties were sampled showing arsenic levels as high as 635 ppm. Ten properties had arsenic concentrations considered to be at or above the acute exposure level.

In 2004, MDA issued a Proposed Plan for cleanup at the former plant property and requested assistance from EPA’s Removal Program to address the residential arsenic contamination. At the former plant property, 62,000 cubic yards of soil were removed and sent to a landfill in Minnesota. EPA established an arsenic removal action level of 95 ppm for the neighborhoods. In 2004, EPA sampled over 400 properties and completed excavation work at thirty properties which exceeded the removal action level. In 2005, EPA sampled surface soils at over 600 residential properties, 13 day care centers, and four schools and excavated 95 properties that exceeded the removal action level. 

In 2005, in an effort to identify areas for additional sampling, EPA ran an air dispersion computer model that estimated that arsenic contamination from the former plant property could potentially have affected an area within a three-quarter mile radius of the property (3,578 residential properties). In 2006, EPA completed sampling at over 3500 residential properties (all of the properties that had granted access to EPA) within this area.

Based on the final data set within the established site boundary, a total of 206 properties had arsenic levels that exceeded the removal action number and required excavation and restoration. By the end of 2008, 197 of those properties had removal work completed. The remaining 9 properties had unresolved access issues and were referred to EPA's remedial cleanup program for additional followup. 

In 2007 EPA completed a Remedial Investigation (RI) at the South Minn site that included the baseline human health risk assessment.  It found that arsenic concentrations greater than 25 ppm could pose an unacceptable risk to the residents, primarily from accidental ingestion of contaminated soil.  The risk assessment also determined that an acceptable preliminary remediation goal for arsenic would be between 16 ppm (background or naturally-occurring soil arsenic concentrations for the area) and 25 ppm. 

Based on the RI sampling data, EPA concluded that wind-blown contamination from the former plant site may have contributed to the arsenic levels in the soil, but, only at very low levels within the three-quarter-mile radius study area. The high levels of arsenic scattered throughout the study area, particularly at the outer edges of the sampling area, are not indicative of wind blown contamination being the sole contributor to arsenic levels in the area. If windblown contamination from the plant site was the sole contributor, then a pattern of decreasing concentrations would be seen as one moved away from the plant site. Decreasing patterns were seen in a few directions at some levels. However,  the pattern of high levels scattered throughout the sampling area, or in some cases increasing concentrations, is more indicative of people also applying or unknowingly bringing in material with a high levels of arsenic on individual properties.  Common fertilizers and pesticides contain high levels of arsenic, as does coal ash and pressure-treated lumber. The Agency, therefore, decided not to expand the sampling area and to limit cleanup work to properties within the sampling area. 

EPA sigend a Record of Decision for the site on September 5, 2008. The final cleanup plan required removing soil from residential yards with arsenic levels exceeding 25 ppm - approximately 487 properties.  In 2009, EPA received funding through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to fund the cleanup work at the site. EPA's contractors began work at the site in August 2009 and completed it in September 2011. To clean up a property, workers dug up a foot of soil from grass and play areas. Within gardens and planting beds, they removed 18 inches of soil. No soil was removed from beneath buildings or paved areas. Soil samples were taken after a foot of contaminated soil had been removed. If those samples showed arsenic at levels above 95 ppm, workers kept digging until soil samples showed that remaining soils did not exceed 95 ppm. (Those most likely to come in contact with the deep soil are construction workers, and the risk assessment shows they will be safe even at levels higher than 95 ppm. Residents will also be safe from short-term exposure at these levels. EPA does not expect any long-term exposure to these levels.) Workers then filled the yard with clean dirt and restored the property. The contaminated soil was taken to permitted landfills in Minnesota.

By the end of the cleanup work in September 2011, 472 properties had been excavated and restored, which represents 97% of the properties at which EPA believes cleanup is needed. Owners of the remaining 3% of properties either chose not to have the cleanup conducted or did not respond to EPA requests for access, which were made over a number of years and in multiple languages. Properties which had the cleanup conducted are available for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure. Property owners are required by City of Minneapolis Code of Ordinances Section 248.30(a)(5) to disclose to potential buyers environmental testing performed on the property by or under the direction of EPA or other governmental agencies. For properties where cleanup was needed, but for which access was not granted, the city of Minneapolis has assured that rental property permits will not be issued. EPA expects these measures will encourage the property owners to perform the necessary cleanup, at their own expense, when they wish to sell the property or attain a rental permit.

No additional remedial action is planned for the South Minn site. Since hazardous substances remain at the site at some properties where access for cleanup was not granted, EPA will conduct Five Year Reviews (FYRs) at the site to evaluate the protectiveness of institutional controls.

EPA completed the first FYR at the South Minn site on May 16, 2014. EPA determined that the remedy is protective in the short-term because immediate threats to human health and the environment have been addressed and the remedy is functioning as intended by the ROD because the arsenic cleanup standard was met at the bottom of each excavation. However, a small number of properties still need remediation because the property owners have denied EPA access or could not be contacted to provide access to conduct the cleanup. Long-term protectiveness will not be achieved until the residential properties that have yet to provide access to EPA are cleaned up. In the meantime, institutional controls are in place on these properties and are effective; also, the FYR site inspection revealed that no changes in land use at the properties that still need to be addressed that are causing unacceptable risks.

EPA will complete the second FYR at the South Minn site in May 2019.

Success Story

Overall, through both removal and remedial actions, about 665 residential properties were cleaned up and made safe for residents at the South Minn site area neighborhoods. This work involved several years of intensive community involvement, with preparations including materials in a variety of languages and contacts by a variety of means in order to meet the needs of this environmental justice community.

Community Involvement

The residential area which makes up the South Minneapolis Residential Soil Cleanup site is an ethnically and economically diverse community. Public outreach materials have been prepared in multiple languages, including Somali, Vietnamese, Hmong, Spanish, and English. Spanish-speaking staff members have been an important part of EPA's communications effort with homeowners and translators for other languages were used as needed. The Minnesota Departments of Agriculture and Health, the city of Minneapolis, and a variety of community neighborhood groups assisted with outreach to the community and helped encourage residents to participate in the cleanup.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
howard caine (caine.howard@epa.gov)
(312) 353-9685

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
cheryl allen
(312) 353-6196




Site Profile Information

This profile provides you with information on EPA's cleanup progress at this Superfund site.


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