In 1988 a chemical spill in the 9000 block of Page Avenue in Overland Park contaminated groundwater in the nearby Elwood Park neighborhood. However, it wasn't until this year that the first public meeting was held to inform residents of the neighborhood of the potential dangers the spill may have brought to the area.
Levels of the chemical Trichloroethylene (TCE) once considered safe, are no longer thought to be, which led St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley's office to organize and put on the meeting. TCE is a chemical commonly used as a degreaser for metal parts and may cause chronic diseases and cancer. Although the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been working the chemical spill case since 1994, the newest findings regarding safe levels of the chemical in the environment, prompted them to ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for assistance in testing area homes. So far, 10 homes have been tested for TCE in the area, all of which showed signs of the chemical, but only three of those homes showed elevated levels. Spokesmen for both the DNR and EPA say the elevated levels found in those three homes should no pose an immediate threat to those residents. However, it is unknown how long the people have been exposed. The DNR and EPA plan to continue testing on homes near the contaminated area in the coming weeks.
Residents of the Elmwood Park neighborhood are now weighing their options in regards to the safety of the homes they occupy. Several residents claimed to have no knowledge of the past chemical spill, nor the potential for water and environmental contamination, which leads many to believe they have unknowingly been exposed to unknown levels of TCE for several years. A few residents are considering leaving their homes. Others have stated they never would have bought their homes if they had known of the contamination. Still others believe that their personal health issues or those of family members may be linked to the hazardous chemical.
Although it is currently not known who will be held responsible for the chemical spill and resulting contamination, several residents are considering legal recourse for illnesses they believe to be linked to the chemical exposure. One local law firm has already held a meeting for the area residents to discuss what, if any, legal avenues may be taken.