Soil samples in downtown Greenville turn up lead, arsenic, and mercury

  Lead, arsenic and mercury — not necessarily as a result of the fire — have been discovered in downtown Greenville.

At the Jan. 18 Board of Supervisors meeting, Jerry Sipe, Plumas County Environmental Health Contractor, delivered news of the soil sample findings in downtown Greenville.

   Cleanup crews have “discovered elevated concentrations of lead and other heavy metals like mercury and arsenic during routine cleanup sampling in downtown locations,” said Sipe.

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   Sipe indicated that this means something is “going on historically in downtown Greenville area might be historical mining or a natural toxic substance.”

   The end results of the findings might mean delays for property owners in the downtown area. Owners might visibly see that debris has been removed but no clearance issued. “Plumas County is working with state partners to understand the full extent of the contamination and develop solutions,” Sipe said. The contamination doesn’t seem to be part of the fire, Sipe indicated.

   He also reminded the board of what exposure to heavy metals and what accumulation can do over time to humans. Lead has serious long term health effects in children (which includes damage to brain and nervous system development, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems).

   The California Department of Toxic Substances Control will be leading an investigation, which includes drilling and taking core samples up to two feet in depth to determine the extent of the heavy metals in the downtown area soil.

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   “Once the extent of the contamination is known, we will have a better idea of which solutions will work best,” said Sipe.

   The county, Sipe said, is working closely with Cal OES and DTSC to minimize the discovery’s impact on county recovery efforts. Clean up efforts will continue. The public is invited to ask the Plumas Debris Removal  at (530) 283-7011.