By: Bill Schammert
Soil samples show one area of Lincoln could have large amounts of lead sitting just below the ground.
It's in the North Bottoms area, just north of Memorial Stadium, where some developers want to build.
Shawnie Zepf has lived in the area for eight years. She's raised her family there and says she's not worried.
"I don't feel there's any concern," Zepf said. "I garden with my kids, we plant flowers together, we're in the dirt working with our hands."
Surface soil samples were taken from 20 properties. Nine of those samples exceed 400-parts-per-million, the threshold the EPA recommends for further investigation.
The testing was done near the former Northwestern Metal Facility, which operated from 1918 to 1961. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality says the focus of the investigation was historic air emissions from their lead smelter.
"We are an environmental agency, and we're responding to a potential human health threat," Mike Felix said. Felix is a Section Supervisor with the Nebraska DEQ.
The DEQ has issued the following recommendations:
• Small children under 7 years of age and pregnant women should avoid contact with bare soil areas.
• Bare soil areas in the yard should be covered with grass, mulch, gravel, sand, or other landscaping material to prevent direct contact with soil. Special attention should be paid to playground areas.
• Adults and children should wash their hands prior to eating.
• Shoes that come into contact with bare soil should be removed prior to entering the home. Shoes should remain outdoors or in a garage to avoid tracking soil into the home.
• Home gardens and play areas should not be located within 3-feet of a home's foundation for homes built prior to 1978, due to potential exposure to lead-based paint contaminated soil.
• Homegrown produce should be washed thoroughly prior to ingestion.
Still, every homeowner we spoke with says, they're not worried.
"I don't think here's probably enough lead to have bothered anybody," Melvin Moore said. Moore's lived in the neighborhood for nearly two decades. "You don't see people walking around here with lead poisoning."
A public information session will be held on June 18th from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Welfare Society Inc. – Hall at 1430 North 10th Street, to address questions that North Bottoms residents may have about the soil sampling and about reducing exposure to lead in soil.