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April 2004

Michigan Evaluates Historical Lead Smelter Sites in Detroit

Michigan’s Department of Environ-mental Quality has completed an initial screening of suspected lead smelter sites located in the city of Detroit.

The screening study was commissioned to determine if there are any impacts these historical smelter operations. Elevated levels of lead are expected to occur in older urban environments as a result of historical deposition of lead and lead compounds, including lead-based paints and leaded gasoline.

The DEQ screening study evaluated 17 suspected lead smelter sites that were identified in a January 2003 Detroit Free Press series on lead poisoning. Of the 17 suspected sites, seven were either already being evaluated or remediated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the DEQ, or as a result of changes to the landscape over time (such as freeway construction and other development), no longer existed. The remaining 10 sites were evaluated in the study.

Sampling was conducted in the neighborhoods surrounding each of the 10 sites. Although the data is limited in nature, lead levels in excess of the DEQ’s residential lead criterion of 400 parts per million were detected in some samples.

Additional studies will be performed at each of the 10 sites to more clearly identify the nature and extent of off-site impacts to neighboring properties and to assess on-site conditions at the suspected smelter sites.

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