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EPA Region 7 Provides $2.4M to Joplin, Mo., to Sample and Remediate Contaminated Soils Disturbed by May 2011 Tornado

Release Date: 10/04/2012
Contact Information: Chris Whitley, (cell) 816-518-2794,

Environmental News


(Lenexa, Kan., Oct. 4, 2012) - EPA Region 7 will provide an additional $2.4 million to the City of Joplin, Mo., to help sample and remediate lead and cadmium-contaminated soils that were disturbed during the May 2011 tornado and subsequent recovery efforts.

The new federal funding, announced today by EPA and city officials, should allow Joplin to replace soils and restore yards at an estimated 240 homes, parks, playgrounds and child-occupied properties over the next three years. The $2.4 million comes from EPA’s Superfund program, through a cooperative agreement that in December 2011 provided an initial $500,000 for the city to hire a remediation coordinator and pay for equipment, testing services, contaminated soil excavation, and clean soil replacement.

“EPA is pleased to continue as a key partner in rebuilding Joplin,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. “This new funding will speed the redevelopment of Joplin’s neighborhoods, bringing life back to properties where families and children will once again be able to live and play in safe environments.”

The EF-5 tornado that swept through the heart of Joplin on May 22, 2011, killed 161 people and injured more than 1,000 others. Bearing winds of more than 200 mph, the tornado damaged or destroyed nearly 8,000 structures, including homes, businesses, schools and churches.

The tornado itself, along with subsequent structural demolition, tree removal and cleanup efforts, also disturbed soils at thousands of properties across the area, including many homes that had been built on historic mine waste areas, or that used mine waste as fill material at some point during their construction and landscaping.

EPA has been cleaning up mine and smelter wastes in the Joplin area since the mid-1990s. At the time of the May 2011 tornado, EPA had cleaned up more than 2,600 residential yards of material contaminated by lead and cadmium. In support of EPA’s long-term yard remediation work, Jasper County in 2006 and the city of Joplin in October 2011 enacted ordinances requiring the testing of residential soils in certain parts of the city prior to redevelopment. EPA currently estimates that as many as 1,500 to 2,000 areas may require soil remediation, depending on test results.

“The City of Joplin and the Jasper County Health Department have gotten a strong head start on this task of sampling and remediation,” Brooks said. “This new funding from EPA’s Superfund program – which we hope to supplement with additional funding in the future – will keep work moving toward Joplin’s full recovery.”

Since Joplin’s soil remediation contractor began working under EPA’s first funding in April 2012, 26 residential yards have been completed, 21 other properties are underway and another 28 are confirmed for and await remediation.

“EPA and the City of Joplin have built a long-term partnership,” Brooks said. “For two decades, the Agency has been helping the city provide a clean and healthy environment for its residents. When EPA’s staff and contractors mobilized within hours of the 2011 tornado to join in the recovery effort, that marked the latest chapter in the continuing story of our excellent relationship.”

EPA Region 7’s response to the Joplin tornado began with a Rapid Needs Assessment, in which On-Scene Coordinators deployed immediately to the city to help identify the most critical environmental hazards that needed to be addressed.

EPA staff and contractors then began monitoring air quality at multiple locations in and around the tornado recovery zone. For almost three months, EPA posted daily results of air sampling for particulate matter and asbestos on the Region 7 website so that residents and recovery workers could be informed of risks and assured of safety.

In its most prominent recovery role, EPA was assigned a mission by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the collection, recovery and recycling or safe disposal of hazardous wastes, electronic goods and white goods. When that mission ended, EPA and its contractors had safely removed more than 257 tons of white goods, 156 tons of electronics equipment, 57 tons of hazardous wastes, and more than 104,000 containers of various size and content from the field of tornado debris.

EPA’s specialized debris collection supported the overall debris removal efforts by conserving scarce sanitary landfill space. Through the Agency’s “Lean and Green” approach, agreements with contractors provided for the recycling of more than 413 tons of white goods and electronics equipment at zero cost to taxpayers.

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