CALEDONIA, Minn. — A metal fabrication plant in Caledonia that shut down years ago, is still causing problems as the chemicals used by the company continue to linger underground.
Some families and businesses there are sitting atop an environmental trouble spot near the intersection of Lincoln and Hokah streets.
The state pollution control agency has spent months monitoring the area around that old industrial site, checking for what’s called ‘vapor intrusion’ — underground gas.
You can’t see or smell the vapor, which could be coming from solvents that were thrown away by the business years ago.
David Jones from the Minnesota Department of Health said the MPCA is performing mitigation at six houses near the former factory.
Jones explains that it would “pull gases from beneath the building and exhaust it to the top of the building outside so that these things don’t ever enter the indoor air. It’s kind of like putting a straw to the bottom of the house and sucking the contamination out and putting it up into the atmosphere.
“The only way to know is to take a sample and run it through pretty sophisticated equipment in a laboratory,” Jones said.
Contaminated soil was removed from the testing area more than a decade ago and groundwater has been contaminated there.
The state has launched a web-site with information for those in the suspected pollution area.
Jones said there are no reports of illnesses related to the chemicals but experts don’t want to take chances.
Jones said the main chemical being monitored, called PCE, has been commonly used by dry cleaners and metal shops.
“This is actually a very common solvent that was used in metalworking just because it was really effective,” Jones said, “and had a lot of the performance that people wanted to have in a solvent and it was relatively inexpensive.”
For more information from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, click here.