The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 27, 2011

Lead contamination found in storm’s main path

JOPLIN, Mo. — Soil tests for lead and cadmium are now being required by the city of Joplin in the hardest-hit tornado-stricken area of the city when building permits are issued.

Some routine soil tests taken this summer in the main path of the storm have shown the presence of lead and cadmium higher than acceptable levels.


The city was notified Sept. 23 by the Jasper County Health Department that it had tested 43 pieces of property in the zone, and averages on 19 of the properties showed contamination beyond the accepted 400 parts per million. That is high enough to require that action be taken to remove or cover the contaminated soil.

Dan Pekarek, director of the Joplin Health Department, said the contamination was detected in voluntary soil tests that property owners were having the county perform as a safeguard. Lead and cadmium are shown to cause developmental disabilities in children who are regularly exposed, usually through playing outdoors.

Once the city was notified by the county of the test results, notices recommending that other property owners obtain the free tests before they rebuilt in the tornado zone were passed out with building permit materials, Pekarek said.

Based on the number of the tests that detected contamination, city administrators recommended that tests be required on properties where children likely would be, such as where houses or where day care operations are located. The City Council passed an ordinance requiring the tests at its meeting Oct. 17.


Pekarek said it is believed that the contamination came from Joplin’s mining past.

“It appears it was used in the early construction of homes,” he said. “Chat was pretty readily available around here, and they used it. It was used as fill for voids around footings and foundations, and to level out crawl spaces.

“The second thing that may have occurred to cause the contamination is there could have been some old chat areas in the middle of the city and they just covered it with soil, but that was exposed now because of the tornado damage.”

The 43 original testing sites are located in various sections of the storm path. They include the lots where the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” project was conducted Oct. 19 through Wednesday to build seven houses on Connor Avenue between 24th and 26th streets.

Pekarek said that when those lots were being excavated for the foundations of the houses, the contamination must have been on the surface, because turning the soil reduced the tested levels. A new layer of soil also was applied to assure that there would be no direct exposure to lead dust.

David Hertzberg, Joplin’s public works director, said that the city has been issuing about 20 residential building permits a day, and that only one is being held until another test can be done to see if the levels have been reduced.

Hertzberg said that the amount of cleanup work that has to be done depends on how high a level the testing shows the contamination to be.

A fix could be as simple as placing a few inches of new soil on the top of a yard to digging out the soil as deep as 18 inches and replacing it, Hertzberg and Pekarek said.

Pekarek said the soil tests done by the county are free. Property owners can remove their own contaminated soil and take it to an authorized dump site for free disposal.


The city has filed a request for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency. The city sent a letter to the EPA saying that up to 1,500 properties could be contaminated and that it could cost up to $5,000 per property for a cleanup, or a total of $7.5 million.

Hertzberg said that amount is for a worst-case scenario where large amounts of contamination were found on many sites.

David Bryan, of the EPA’s Region 7 office in Kansas City, said, “We received the letter, and we have been in discussions with city officials and county officials.” To decide how much funding is needed, “it’s a matter of finding out what they project is the amount of work to be done and working out an agreement” between the various government entities. “We have done this before with the city, so a lot of people know how it works.”

The city may have based its estimate of contaminated sites on the percentages reflected in the results found in the voluntary testing, “but we don’t like to put a number to it because it’s what we find scientifically,” Bryan said. Testing determines how many properties could be affected, he said.

The EPA has worked in Joplin before, replacing or repairing yards in north Joplin where a former lead smelter spread contamination.

Pekarek said soil tests have been required in that area of the city since 2006.


To request a soil test, residents may call the Jasper County Health Department at 417-358-3111.


Text Only
Local News
  • State audit of Joplin School District begins

    Staff members from the state auditor’s office have begun their audit of the Joplin School District, Superintendent C.J. Huff said Monday. They are expected to be in the district four days per week for the next five to six months, or perhaps longer, until the audit is complete, Huff said.

    July 21, 2014

  • Burglary conviction draws shock prison time

    A Joplin man who received 120 days of shock incarceration time Friday in a drunken-driving case in Jasper County Circuit Court was assessed a concurrent sentence Monday in a burglary case.

    July 21, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Family gatherings mirror circle of life

    The annual family gathering is getting bigger. There tends to be an ebb and a flow to most family gatherings. When you’re a kid, and especially if you’re a kid from a large Catholic family, the gatherings seem to be huge.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Carthage man pleads guilty in sexual abuse case

    A Carthage man pleaded guilty Monday to sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl in a plea agreement that would cap the length of his prison term at no more than 15 years.

    July 21, 2014

  • Main Street TIF district study to begin

    A measure that allows the city to charge its $15,000 in administrative costs for studying a proposal to create a tax increment financing district on South Main Street was approved Monday by the Joplin City Council.

    July 21, 2014

  • 071714 Jasper Cty Dispatch1_72.jpg Area communities, Jasper County work to improve communications

    The first law enforcement officer to respond to a fatal shooting last November at Northpark Mall was from the Duquesne Police Department — not Joplin. Joplin police Chief Jason Burns said he wasn’t bothered by that. “We dispatch for them, and they had an officer close who could get there faster,” he said. “And getting help to people as quickly as possible is more important than jurisdictions.”

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • New and old TIF districts on agenda for Joplin council

    Another tax increment financing district is being proposed for Joplin, this one along South Main Street. The area is close to the new Mercy Hospital Joplin that is set to open next year. RKS Development is seeking authorization from the Joplin City Council when it meets Monday night to prepare a request to establish a TIF district.

    July 20, 2014

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Family grows by one — a black Lab named Raven

    If you haven’t experienced the feeling of a tiny puppy in your lap at the end of a perfect July Saturday — hammock time, s’mores, leisurely walks, you know the kind — I highly recommend it. It is pure joy.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042017 Jo Ellis_c.jpg Jo Ellis: Car show, sidewalk sale and more scheduled for weekend in Carthage

    All roads leading to Carthage should be packed this weekend as numerous events geared toward entertainment, cultural pursuits and bargain hunting are expected to pull in large crowds.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SusanRedden.jpg Susan Redden: Hobby Lobby lawyer to speak at watermelon feed

    Josh Hawley, who helped represent Hobby Lobby in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on contraception requirements in the Affordable Care Act, has been added to the list of speakers for Thursday’s annual watermelon feed sponsored by Newton County Republicans.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read


Do you think Missouri should pass legislation that would allow a prescription drug database to be kept?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter