VAPOR INTRUSION: Open house Tuesday for Como residents - KMSP-TV

VAPOR INTRUSION: Open house Tuesday for Como residents

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Representatives of General Mills, The MPCA and the Minnesota Department of Health will meet with Como neighborhood residents on March 25 to discuss testing for TCE vapor intrusion.

General Mills says testing is almost complete, with 90 percent of homes and buildings in the area assessed. So far, the company has offered to equip 111 homes with ventilation systems after discovering elevated levels of the potentially hazardous vapor, and installation has been completed at 69 of those homes.

More than 300 homes have been tested in total, but General Mills is also requesting access to 128 new homes beyond the original test group of 166 homes.

The vapor testing has been underway since November, which is when TCE vapors were found in the soil near an old General Mills facility where the industrial solvent was dumped in the 1940s through the 1960s, -- which was standard at the time.

The chemicals polluted the groundwater and the company spent 25 years treating two contaminated aquifers beneath the Como neighborhood.

Residents filed a class-action lawsuit in December with the help of Erin Brokovich's legal team.

OPEN HOUSE MEETING

Representatives of General Mills, The MPCA and the Minnesota Department of Health were available to meet area residents at an open house at Van Cleve Recreation Center on Tuesday night, but they weren't willing to answer questions on camera.

"If I could, I would seriously be thinking about moving because this is heart wrenching for me," Stewart Smith, a concerned Como resident, admitted. "The vapors are coming up through the basement first, so the concern was: what have we been experiencing all these years?"

Smith owns one of the homes affected by the vapor intrusion, but although General Mills is offering vapor mitigation systems that should keep the vapors out of area homes, not everyone is a fan of the technology.

"Who wants to live with that system in their house like that?" Tanya Henderson asked. "You know? Running, making all that noise."

Since Smith's home was tested, he's had several ports -- essentially pipes going into the basement floor -- installed. Looking back on it, Smith said the process was a difficult one, taking two weeks amid extreme cold. 

"We have a total of 7 right now because it's the 7th one that worked," Smith told Fox 9 News.

Furthermore, event he MPCA says ventilation systems are not a long-term solution to the contamination problem.

"The long-term remedy is addressing the source of the contamination, which is the contamination in the ground," Hans Neve said.

Yet, many residents are still left to wonder how the vapor intrusion will affect property values.

"Selling wise, someone's going to come in and be like, 'What are all these pipes that are in your basement," Smith said.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

According to the MPCA, building tests and mitigation efforts will continue through June. The next stage will involve a multi-year process targeting the contamination source; however, more tests will be needed before a clean-up response strategy and action plan can be implemented.

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