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Como residents sue General Mills over TCE contamination

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Two lawsuits that attorneys hope will reach class-action status were filed against General Mills Thursday after elevated levels of soil pollutants were found below several homes in Minneapolis' Como neighborhood, the Star Tribune reports.

The chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE, was used as an industrial solvent at a former General Mills research facility in the 1940s through the 1960s and dumped in a pit -- a standard practice at the time.

Despite treating the groundwater for more than two decades, state testing conducted in October showed the presence of TCE vapors in area soil.

Of the 26 homes where additional basement testing was done, 17 had TCE levels that exceeded the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's safety threshold. The Star Tribune says four of the tested properties have TCE level 93 times greater than MPCA's threshold.

Results for about 30 more homes tested have not yet been released.

General Mills has agreed to cover the cost ventilation systems to rid homes of the chemical, which run about $2,000 a piece.

However, that's not enough to satisfy some residents.

The Star Tribune says three attorneys from Minneapolis and Chicago filed suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of Como residents Karl Ebert and Carol Krauze.

Ebert and Krauze are seeking clean-up of the contamination, compensation for property damage and additional compensation since TCE is a known human carcinogen, FOX 9 reports.

A similar suit was filed by a Minneapolis firm in Hennepin County District Court on behalf of another resident Jill Ruzicka, the Star Tribune said.

KARE 11 says one of the suits asks General Mills to establish a medical monitoring trust fund.

Prolonged, substatial exposure to TCE has been linked to cancers like non-Hodgkins lymphoma as well as congenital birth defects, the newspaper said in a separate report.

The Minnesota Department of Health said its registries don't show a higher rate of birth defects in the area. A review of the cancer database isn't complete.

Robert Bowcock, an associate of environmental activist Erin Brockovich, is holding a town hall meeting with Como residents on Saturday to address further concerns.

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