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EPA in Nebraska

Northwestern Metals Company Superfund Site, Lincoln, Nebraska - Fact Sheet, April 2018

EPA Removal Action

INTRODUCTION

The Northwestern Metals Company had operated a secondary metal smelting facility from approximately 1918 until 1961, southwest of the North Bottoms Neighborhood in Lincoln, Nebraska. In 2013, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) conducted soil testing at 20 properties in the area. This sampling identified several properties with elevated lead levels, and NDEQ requested the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to further evaluate potential lead contamination near the former Northwestern Metals Company. These investigations have identified the presence of elevated levels of lead in soil within the North Bottoms Neighborhood area.

BACKGROUND

Metal smelting operations have often been associated with elevated levels of metal contamination. This is due to air deposition from their smokestacks, and from the reuse of the abundant waste material generated from ore smelting that often contains residual contaminants.

Lead in residential soils can be attributed to a number of different sources, ranging from the historical usage of lead-based paints, leaded gasoline, and pesticides to contaminated fill material, naturally occurring lead in soils, and atmospheric deposition from commercial activities.

While smelting operations can produce a number of different contaminants, lead is of particular concern due to its adverse cognitive effects on children under the age of 7 and fetal development during pregnancy.

RESIDENTIAL SAMPLING

If your property in the North Bottoms Neighborhood has not been sampled, and you would like to have your soil analyzed for lead, please contact EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator (see EPA Contact Information below).

ABOUT LEAD CONTAMINATION

Lead is a toxic metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Lead is classified by EPA as a probable human carcinogen, and is a cumulative toxicant. Lead exposure can pose serious health risks, particularly for young children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid exposure to lead to protect their children. Children are more sensitive to lead than adults, and can develop lifelong disabilities and behavior problems from lead exposure.

Children 7 years old and younger are most at risk from developing health effects from exposure to lead. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead, because they often put their hands and other objects into their mouths that can have lead from dust or soil on them.

It is important that children in this age range be tested annually, because lead-poisoned children do not always look or act sick. It is important to know that exposure to even low levels of lead can severely harm children. Exposure to lead can cause negative health effects in infants and young children, including, but not limited to:

  • Nervous system and kidney damage
  • Learning disabilities, attention-deficit disorder, and decreased intelligence
  • Speech, language, and behavior problems
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Decreased muscle and bone growth, and hearing damage

While low lead exposure is most common, exposure to high amounts of lead can have devastating effects on children, including seizures, unconsciousness, and in some cases, death. Although children are especially susceptible to lead exposure, lead can be dangerous for adults, too. In adults, exposure to lead can cause:

  • Harm to a developing fetus
  • Increased chance of high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Fertility problems (in men and women)
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain

PROTECT YOUR FAMILY FROM LEAD

In general, lead exposure and its effects can be reduced by:

  • Washing hands after playing outside and before meals
  • Eating a diet high in calcium and iron (and low in fat)
  • Regularly cleaning floors, window sills, and other surfaces
  • Regularly washing children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys
  • Removing shoes or wiping soil from shoes before entering your home

BLOOD LEAD TESTING

The only way to know if your child has elevated blood lead levels is to have his or her blood tested. EPA encourages parents to have their children tested for lead exposure. Talk to your pediatrician, general physician, or local health department about what you can do and about testing your child. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to check you or your child for lead exposure.

For more information on blood testing for children, please contact: Lancaster County Health Department, 3140 N Street, Lincoln, Nebraska 68510; Phone: 402-441-8000.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Additional information regarding the Northwestern Metals Company Superfund Site, including the Administrative Record, is available online.

For information about lead, visit:

EPA CONTACT INFORMATION

For questions or site information, contact:

Randolph Brown
On-Scene Coordinator
U.S. EPA Region 7
11201 Renner Boulevard
Lenexa, KS 66219
Phone: 913-551-7978
Toll-free: 1-800-223-0425
 
Pamela Houston
Community Engagement Specialist
U.S. EPA Region 7
11201 Renner Boulevard
Lenexa, KS 66219
Phone: 913-551-7699
Toll-free: 1-800-223-0425