Late last week the Minnesota Department of Health notified several hundred residents of the Como neighborhood that they may be threatened by vapors containing cancer-causing chemicals released from the former General Mills facility on East Hennepin Avenue. A review of the records shows that General Mills and the State have known about this problem dating back to 1981! And, believe it or not, General Mills shut off its remedial pumping system 3 years ago. Now, residents are being told that levels of these cancer-causing chemicals 10 times the State screening standard have been measured in their neighborhood. They are being asked to allow sampling underneath their homes and are being told that if the chemicals are discovered above “acceptable” levels, General Mills will install sub-slab systems to take care of the problem. Recent releases from the State concerning the problem can be found here. Critical questions must be answered. Among others:
- How long has General Mills and the State known of the vapor intrusion threat to these families?
- Why hasn’t the problem been cleaned up?
- Who is going to determine what amount of these chemicals is “acceptable” on these properties and how is it going to be determined?
- Who is going to compensate these families for the damage to the value of their properties?
Our experience teaches us that neither the polluter nor the regulators who have been “on the job” for decades can be relied on to provide answers to these questions. Neither are motivated or equipped to get to the bottom of it.