EPA officials having problems gaining access to lead-tainted soil properties
Toxic levels of lead continue to threaten neighborhoods in South Chattanooga.
This is important because lead is dangerous to the development of children.
Federal and local agencies have been trying to test, remove and replace the soil for several years but Monday we learned they're running into a problem.
Environmental Protection Agency officials believe material from Chattanooga foundry sites was used to back fill properties in these areas decades ago, leading to the contamination.
But in order to test the soil, those living on the property have to give the EPA access.
"The people in these neighborhoods, do they trust the system?" Regional Health Councilman Chris Ramsey asked.
It's been eight years since the EPA started removing and replacing lead-tainted soil in eight Southside Chattanooga neighborhoods. The Regional Health Council learned Monday there's still a lot of work to be done.
Jasmin Jefferies is a Remedial Project Manager with the EPA. She told the council they're having problems getting access to private properties that need testing.
"Tenants that don't feel comfortable giving us access to sample without the owner," she said.
Out of town property owners and language barriers are also contributing to the problem but Jefferies said that's not stopping her team from trying to work with residents.
Testing is free and if a property does test positive for lead, the EPA will remove and replace it at no cost.
"We have a crew that comes in and digs up the soil and takes it to an EPA certified landfill and then we have another crew that comes in and does the backfill and some landscaping," she added.
Chris Ramsey believes trust may be an issue and believes teaming up with other organizations could help.
"It's my mission, it's my goal to make sure as these organizations come in the community, that they're partnering with organizations that already exist in the community that have that trust factor with the residents in the community," he said.
Health officials also stress every child living in the affected neighborhoods should be tested for lead in their blood, regardless of the lead level in the soil in their yard.
To view a map of impacted sites, click HERE.