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Joplin Makes Progress in Lead Removal

Property owners who need lead removed apply for a building permit and that's when the city goes in and determines which areas of the land need to be replaced.

JOPLIN, MO--- "Oh my goodness, finding contamination in areas we didn't previously find contamination in that part of town," says Dan Pekarek, Joplin City Health Department Director.

Digging up the remnants comes at a cost.

"Its about 12 thousand dollars a yard," Pekarek said.

A 3.5 million dollar grant is helping with the project.

"We approached EPA with the issue and they agreed to provide funding."

The Joplin City Health Department is decontaminating any soil that might come into contact with children in the future.

"Where the lead was brought to the surface because of the houses that were damaged, destroyed tree upheaval, things like that," says Leslie Heitkamp, City of Joplin Lead Inspector.

Property owners who need lead removed apply for a building permit, and that's when the city goes in and determines which areas of the land need to be replaced.

"The contractor removes the contaminated soil, clean soil is brought back in in its place, and then re-seeded and strawed, and the individual has their yard," Pekarek says.

Joplin city leaders have made significant progress.

"We know that we've cleaned up 182 yards as of a couple weeks ago," Pekarek says.

Even with this progress, there's still a lot of work to do.

"We're averaging about 39 percent of lots that have been tested, come back needing some level of clean-up," Pekarek says, "So if that number continues, you could have 4 or 500 more lots
conceivably could need remediation on some level."

Representatives from the health department say the number of applicants needing lead removal has decreased significantly. It's gone from around 15 applicants every two weeks to only one or two.

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