The Superfund National Priorities List now includes nine new sites-one of them where a smelter used to operate on the east side of Iola.
The EPA says the soil on hundreds of residential and commercial properties in and around Iola is contaminated with lead, arsenic, cadmium and zinc. EPA Region 7 spokeswoman Dianna Whitaker says the biggest concern is lead.
“Children can get into that lead—especially young children," she says. "They put their hands in their mouths, and then they can be exposed and absorb lead, and lead is very dangerous for young children."
Whitaker says the EPA has had staff in Iola since 2006. They’ve sampled more than 1600 properties—530 of which have been found to have lead levels higher than the federal standard. One hundred thirty residential yards with the highest lead concentrations have already been cleaned up.
The National Priorities List is a roster of the nation’s highest-priority hazardous waste sites. These sites qualify for cleanup money authorized by Congress under the Superfund program.