CSCC soil contamination & remediation

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

blogpost (November 2009)

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.

Notice to SE Como Community (November 2009)

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.

"Cleaning up the past: By the end of June, 31 tons of contaminated soil will have been removed from the Como Student Community Cooperative.  The story of the contamination traces back to an era when the link between environment and health was unknown"
By Mike Mullen, The Minnesota Daily (5/4/10)

excerpt --  "On Sept. 18, 2008, the phone rang in Janet Dalgleish's basement office at Boynton Health Service.  Dalgleish, the University of Minnesota environmental affairs coordinator, was told that construction workers at the Como Student Community Cooperative had been waterproofing one of the buildings when they found ash, stained soil and debris. They immediately stopped working.

In the days and months that followed, lab tests revealed that the soil around three CSCC apartments, which are University-owned and tailored to married graduate students, was contaminated with alarming levels of cadmium, lead and carcinogens. As Dalgleish saw it, the University could either dig up and replace millions of pounds of soil or close three apartment buildings.  “It wasn’t acceptable to do nothing,” Dalgleish said. “That was not one of the choices.” . . ."

Voluntary Investigation & Cleanup (VIC) program activity for the site

43) VP24930 Como Student Community RAP Approval Letter 05/01/09

VP24930 Como Student Community 

Site Type: Dump (Unpermitted) 5.3 acres 

1024 27th Avenue SE, Minneapolis 55414

Site / Property Owners:  University of Minnesota Regents

Contaminant (Concentration, Units, Media Type)

  • Arsenic                                (14.40, mg/Kg, soil)
  • Benzo[a]pyrene Equivalents  (31.40, mg/Kg, soil)
  • Cadmium                             (113, mg/Kg, soil)
  • Copper                                 (163, mg/Kg, soil)
  • Lead                                    (4,390, mg/Kg, soil)

Response Actions Completed during Reporting Period: 

  • Public Meeting (all types) 10/27/09 
  • Remedial Action 11/13/09 

Como Student Community Cooperative (CSCC) 2008-2009 Annual Stockholder's Report excerpts  

From the Grounds, Maintenance and Security Committee section (page 7), submitted by Rachel Dittli

  • Waterproofing -- Last fall waterproofing of buildings 5, 6, 10 and 11 was completed. During waterproofing of Building 11, soil contamination was found. The soil involved in waterproofing was remediated, and further testing planned for the spring. This spring it was determined that there was widespread contamination at the north east section of the property. Remediation and waterproofing of buildings 12 and 13 is being planned.  
  • Soil Contamination -- Soil contamination with various industrial contaminants was found around buildings 11, 12 and 13. The University obtained a grant from Hennepin County to help with remediation of the soil, and will bid out the remediation project after receiving those funds. The cost of this project is affecting the timing of other major projects, such as the renovation of parking lot D and possibly coreway renovation. In addition, soil contamination could preclude the digging necessary to install pavers in parking lot D. 

From the General Manager’s Annual Report to Stockholders June 2, 2009 section (page 17), submitted by Jerry Erickson

  • ". . . Our unforseen water proofing project begun a few years ago was nearing completion on the final three buildings when contaminated soil was discovered. Removal of the soil around buildings 11, 12 & 13 will now have to be done at a depth of from three to six feet. Since Hennepin County will be providing some clean-up funds, it looks like some of the soil remediation will be done late this summer and the remainder next summer, 2010. This will have to be coordinated with the remaining water proofing of buildings 12 & 13. "

Project Name: Como Student Community Housing - rebuild parking lot D

Project #: 01-151-11-1419 

Estimated Construction Budget: $425,000 

Anticipated Award Date: 7-13-11 

Vendor Identified Risks . . . 

 6)  If the University’s contaminated soil excavation contractor fails to correct the required areas to meet the schedule. This would appose a risk of completing the project on time. 

 8)  Encounter greater volume of contaminated soils.

17)  The Como Student Housing site is known to contain contaminated soils and possibly poses a risk to workers and residents if disturbed not contained.

21)  Because of the soil remediation work taking place, electrical feeds and conduit that would typically be re-used are going to have to be new.