Como Student Community Coop (CSCC) Soil Pollution Clean-Up

posted Nov 10, 2009, 10:57 AM by Stephanie Hankerson   [ updated Nov 19, 2009, 10:35 AM by Unknown user ]
Two articles were published about this the week of November 16, 2009:

In The Minnesota Independent, "U of M removing toxic waste from family student housing site:  University twice built apartments where removal of lead- and arsenic-tainted soil is underway"  By Chris Steller

In the Minnesota Daily, "Toxic soil removed from Como student housing: The University completed the first phase of cleanup at the building on Friday."  By Danielle Nordine & Jessica Van Berkel 

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This past week, SECIA has been distributing the following information about soil pollution remediation happening in  SE Como.  Thus far, all the testing and remediation have occurred within the boundaries of the University of Minnesota's Como Student Community Cooperative (CSCC). This notice was shared at the SECIA annual meeting on 11/4/2009 and sent to the community through SECIA's e-newsletter called the Como Tidbits. (If you would like to have your e-mail address added to  "Como Tidbits" e-mail list, send a "Add address" to

Notice to the SE Como Community

Como Community Members:

A few months ago, a small article in the Star Tribune announced that over $700,000 had been appropriated from Hennepin County’s Brownfield Remediation funds to do work at the Como Student Community Cooperative (CSCC) – the 400+ unit family and partnered student housing complex located at the east end of the Como community. This immediately raised questions with the SECIA board and staff about what was being done at the site and what were the implications to the greater Como community. We subsequently sought more information, requested relevant documentation, and met with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) staff at our last Environment Committee meeting. Our Environmental Coordinator has also reviewed the information found in the documentation we have received to date.

This is what we know so far:

· The student cooperative was having foundation water-proofing installed when the contractor discovered signs that there may be some contaminates in the soil around the buildings

· The University then initiated core sample analysis of the property with a focus on the northern half – from Talmage to Hennepin

· The results of those core samples showed high concentrations in some areas of contaminate including the heavy metals of arsenic, cooper and lead along with other volatile compounds

· The University developed a remediation plan, which was approved by the MPCA, for the north half of the property, which includes soil removal and replacement to varying depths

· They have already completed half the work (the northeast corner) at a cost of about 1 millions dollars, and plan to continue into the northwest corner as funds are found

· The MPCA is uncertain of the history, but has determined that the likely source seems to be an old dumpsite, active sometime in the thirties and later, but the type of dump, who ran it, and the later history around why it wasn’t remediated, is yet to be determined

· The MPCA is also looking into the scope of the problem, since while it seems to be concentrated mostly at the northeast corner of the property, it needs to be known how far any contamination may have spread. No investigation off the property is planned at this time

The information we are seeing in the two reports we have (available at the SECIA office) is troubling - especially as it relates to the high concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic, copper and lead – and it is good that there is aggressive remediation happening at the cooperative. However, given the possibility that there could have been some cross contamination of soil over the years, we are seeking help in broadening the soil and are contacting the MPCA, Hennepin County, and local officials, asking for their help. Until we have a clearer picture, we cannot know for sure if there is any need for concern for the adjacent property owners. We plan to have a community meeting at some point in the near future, once we can establish the appropriate contacts at the University and the above-identified agencies.

We do not have any further information at this time, but we can email the reports we have electronically, if you contact the SECIA office ( The MPCA staff working on the project is Lynne Grigor, 651 757-2399.