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City of Omaha to take over cleanup efforts at lead Superfund site


OMAHA, Nebraska — The city of Omaha will take over cleanup efforts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in removing contaminated soil from the lead Superfund site.

The federal agency, after 15 years, is ending the most intensive part of its cleanup efforts at the site across eastern Omaha, the Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/1J4LKvC ) reported.

Omaha city officials say they want to use a more down-to-earth approach in reaching out to the remaining 1,000 property owners with potential lead soil problems.

City Planning Director James Thele said the city can do a better job at personal outreach. He said some of the "legalese" handouts from the EPA might have confused some people.

"I think we'll have a better opportunity because we're Omahans," he said. "We're from Omaha. We talk the same language."

Thele said the federal agency has tested around 40,000 properties so far and has cleaned up around 15,000. The city will have around seven years to take care of the last 1,000. The EPA will continue to fund the cleanup efforts by up to roughly $30 million.

Most of eastern Omaha has been considered a superfund site by the EPA because of the extent of lead contamination, which can endanger children's health, causing decreased intelligence, slow growth and behavior problems.

The lead contamination came from a lead smelter that Asarco operated in Omaha for more than a century before it closed in 1997. Asarco paid $200 million as part of a settlement with the EPA because of the lead smelter it operated, but Asarco did not admit fault in the settlement.

Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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