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Priority designation makes Iola contamination sites... - KOAM TV 7

Priority designation makes Iola contamination sites eligible for long-term funding

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A contamination issue dating back to the 1900's has officials ready to clean up in Iola, Kansas.  Federal regulators are putting the contaminated area on a list of hazardous waste places with highest priority for cleanup.

The priority designation makes the site eligible for extensive, long-term funding.

"Years ago the city of Iola had a large smelter zinc operation site on the east side of town and as typical of operations of that nature, there was contamination," says Iola mayor Joel Wicoff.

The former United Zinc & Associated Smelters site was one of several zinc and lead smelting operations between 1902 and 1925.  The facility was formerly located on the east side of Iola, where there are now residential and commercial properties.

Once the property closed it left behind chemical contaminations that may be harmful to children, especially lead contaminations.

According to the EPA, 1,686 resident properties were screened in the city for harmful lead, zinc and other contaminant levels; 129 of those properties had excavations done to remove the soil, replacing it with fresh soil.

Because of the amount of contaminants found in homes that weren't harmful an additional 1,400 properties were screened in May 2013.

Ronald Mayberry moved to Iola last year and just learned about the contamination.

"We just recently heard that something had been done in the area, we knew there was some cleanup sites down in this corner of the state, but I guess there hasn't been any here in Iola till the one they're talking about now," says Mayberry.

Mayberry's home was built during the time the smeltering site was operating but says he's not concerned if his home is tested.

"I don't feel it rises to the level of being serious so unless something serious happens to change our mind, I don't plan to do any testing," says Mayberry.

The soil testing will continue for the next several months before more excavations begin.

The EPA says the governor's office and Iola's mayor sent letters of support for the priority listing.

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