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Officials address Como residents' concerns over possible TCE exposure

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Several residents of Minneapolis' Como neighborhood attended a community meeting Tuesday to get information and raise concerns about the recent discovery of a potentially harmful vapor found in area soil.

State officials notified residents last week that preliminary testing conducted in October showed the presence of trichloroethylene, known as TCE, that could be seeping into homes and businesses.

The chemical was used as an industrial solvent in the 1940s through the early 1960s at a former General Mills research facility on East Hennepin Avenue. FOX 9 reports roughly 1,000 gallons of TCE were dumped into a pit on the property, a practice that was legal at the time.

After the contamination was discovered in the 1980s, the area was declared a "Superfund" site and General Mills spent the next 25 years pumping and treating groundwater, but traces of TCE still remain in the soil.

Additional basement testing will determine if the vapor exceeds safe levels. Property owners are required to sign access agreements for the free testing, which will begin next Monday.

The Star Tribune reports prolonged, substantial exposure to TCE has been linked to cancers like non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as well as congenital birth defects.

Jim Kelly, manager of environmental surveillance and assessment for the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), told the newspaper that data from the department's registries does not show a higher rate of birth defects in the 55414 ZIP code, which includes the Como neighborhood. A review of the cancer database isn't complete, Kelly said.

If high levels of TCE are detected, General Mills will pay for ventilation systems to remove the chemical, similar to what's used to rid homes of radon.

“We’re all hopeful we’re going to conduct this investigation and we’re not going to see the types of exposures that will even require mitigation,” Kelly said.

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