Erin Brockovich investigator questions TCE vapor test quality - KMSP-TV

Erin Brockovich's chief investigator questions TCE vapor test quality

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Area affected by TCE vapor investigation Area affected by TCE vapor investigation
Vapor intrusion process Vapor intrusion process
TCE vapor test sampling results as of Dec. 4, 2013 TCE vapor test sampling results as of Dec. 4, 2013
  • Como residents weigh vapor intrusion optionsMore>>

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    VAPOR INTRUSION: Como residents file class-action lawsuit

    Friday, December 6 2013 2:15 PM EST2013-12-06 19:15:15 GMT
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  • VAPOR INTRUSION: 17 of 26 Como homes tested show elevated TCE

    VAPOR INTRUSION: 17 of 26 Como homes tested show elevated TCE

    Monday, December 2 2013 11:45 PM EST2013-12-03 04:45:55 GMT
    Potentially dangerous vapors have residents in one Minneapolis neighborhood more than concerned. Some are calling attorneys -- even Erin Brockovich -- over the contamination impacting their homes.
    Potentially dangerous vapors have residents in one Minneapolis neighborhood more than concerned. Some are calling attorneys -- even Erin Brockovich -- over the contamination impacting their homes.
  • Como residents meet on vapor intrusion, contamination concerns

    Como residents alerted to vapors from old General Mills site

    Tuesday, November 12 2013 11:29 PM EST2013-11-13 04:29:28 GMT
    On Tuesday night, residents living in a southeast Minneapolis neighborhood came together to discuss the investigation into potentially harmful vapors linked to solvents dumped there.
    On Tuesday night, residents living in a southeast Minneapolis neighborhood came together to discuss the investigation into potentially harmful vapors linked to solvents dumped during the 1940s through the early 1960s.
  • Como residents alerted to vapors from old General Mills site

    Como residents alerted to vapors from old General Mills site

    Thursday, November 7 2013 10:41 PM EST2013-11-08 03:41:49 GMT
    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent letters to residents of the Como neighborhood in southeast Minneapolis on Nov. 6 to alert them of an ongoing investigation of potentially harmful vapors.
    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent letters to residents of the Como neighborhood in southeast Minneapolis on Wednesday, Nov. 6 to alert them of an ongoing investigation of potentially harmful vapors. The vapors in question are trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent used at the former General Mills research facility at 2010 E. Hennepin Avenue from the 1940s to early 1960s.
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

At least 1,200 people could be affected by the TCE vapor that's been found in soil samples in the southeast Minneapolis Como neighborhood, and as more homes get tested, that number could increase.

On Saturday, people stopped to further weigh their legal options at a town hall meeting set up by an investigator for Erin Brockovich.

Chief environmental investigator Rob Bowcock told Fox 9 that General Mills could probably solve this problem internally very quickly and choose not to put this neighborhood through up to five years of what he calls "hell."

On Saturday, residents gathered at Van Cleve Park to weigh their unpleasant options -- get a vapor ventilation system installed, join a class-action lawsuit with their neighbors, or move out.

"All I want to do is just move,. That's all I want to do, is just move," resident Tonya Henderson said.

Henderson believes it's not enough to install a ventilation system in her home to keep potentially harmful TCE vapors.

"My son, him and his girlfriend they sleep in our basement sometimes and their baby, they want to go get tested," Henderson said.

She's concerned contamination from the former General Mills Henkel site may have already affected her family, though she has yet to undergo health tests.

"I think I'm going to sign with them and see where it goes from there," Henderson said.

For many at a packed town hall, the health questions are as hard as the legal questions. Should they join a class-action lawsuit with many of their neighbors? Or join a separate suit filed by the legal team that once represented whistleblower Erin Brockovich?

"I think the class action suits, in general, really don't do as much to address the actual pollution, environmental concerns for the people," resident Coral Sadowy said. "It's sort of like putting a Band-Aid on a huge issue and expecting to get some healing out of it."

It's a heavy decision, especially since the chief environmental investigator who once represented whistleblower Erin Brockovich questions some of General Mills' recent tests.

"They're not giving out consistent information and the fact that they're only testing for the primary chemical of concern TCE and not testing for the breakdown components, because they're actually indicative of the total mass and actually more dangerous than the TCE itself," Bowcock said.

Paul Casperson told Fox 9 his trichloroethylene vapor test results show his soil contains 15,000 units of the substance. That's 750 times above the recommended limit.

"We would ask General Mills to have a heart for some people like us, who have been a good customer for them, and have thought that they had a heart, and I would ask them to have a heart," Casperson said.

The MPCA recommends anyone with a reading of 20 units or more be equipped with a ventilation system to remove the vapors.

"Who wants to live with that system in their house running and making all kinds of noise?" Henderson asked.

"We're going to be living in a house that's just not livable," Casperson fears.

And that fear collides with a question of trust. Will General Mills do the right thing?

"They've taken shortcuts repeatedly over the past 25 years and that's indicative of the possibility that they may not want to step up and do the right thing," Bowcock said.

General Mills says they will offer ventilation systems to all the homes that test over the EPA limits. So far, 42 homes tested above, and 27 below those limits.

Meanwhile, the MPCA says there is no immediate, urgent health care concern, even with TCE levels that exceed the EPA guidelines. Cleanup of this solution could take 300 years dissipates.

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