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EPA and KDHE Announce Cleanup Completion at 309 Lead-Contaminated Residential Yards in Caney, Kansas

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Ben Washburn (

Environmental News


EPA seal(Lenexa, Kan., Oct. 1, 2018) - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) announced the completion of the cleanup of 309 lead-contaminated residential yards in Caney, Kansas. EPA, in coordination with KDHE, conducted the cleanup from November 2016 to September 2018. Final restoration activities should conclude in fall 2018.

“Protecting children from exposure to lead (Pb) is at the heart of this partnership with our colleagues at KDHE,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. “We are going to continue to work tirelessly with our state partners to protect lives from lead contamination here in the Heartland.”

“The residential cleanup action in Caney is a great success,” said KDHE Environment Director Leo Henning. “It demonstrates how KDHE and the EPA work together to protect Kansans from exposure to toxic substances.”

EPA and KDHE sampled 975 properties in Caney. Of the 975 properties sampled, 319 qualified for cleanup, with EPA and KDHE cleaning up lead-contaminated residential yards at 309 properties. Ten properties either declined cleanup or were inaccessible because the owner could not be located or contacted.

Lead contamination of residential yards at the site is the result of local smelting operations that date back to about a century ago. In the early 1900s, the discovery of natural gas in the area spurred the development of zinc and lead smelting in Caney and elsewhere in southeast Kansas, with the smelters using natural gas as fuel. Over time, airborne lead particles from smelters and related operations settled onto area properties. The use of waste from the smelters as driveway paving, construction backfill, and landscaping material also likely contributed to residential contamination.

The testing of soil was conducted at no cost to the property owners. If the soil needed to be cleaned up, the cleanup was also conducted at no cost to the property owners.

Lead exposure can cause a range of adverse health effects, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing. Children 7 years old and younger are most at risk from developing health effects from exposure to lead.

Lead poisoning is preventable. Have your child tested for elevated levels of lead in their blood. If you live in a home built before 1978, have the paint tested for lead by a certified renovation and lead dust sampling technician.

EPA administers inspection, risk assessment, and abatement certification programs in 38 states, and offers a searchable database for those locations.

Additionally, 14 states administer their own programs. You can find more information and links to these programs on EPA’s website.

There are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter. This is the reference level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends public health actions be initiated. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.

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