High levels of lead found on Lenoir City streets

  By: Stoney Sharp, Reporter WBIR

A high lead count in Lenoir City has health officials concerned. According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the old Lenoir City Car Works plant could be the cause.
The rail car manufacturer closed in 1985. Trees now fill the 100 acre site, and its entrance on F Street is now locked and blocked by a railroad track.

Recent soil tests showed high amounts of lead on the property. According to TDEC, the lead is associated with slag and foundry sand that was found on the site.

"It has levels that make it inappropriate for industrial or residential use at this time," said TDEC spokesperson, Tisha Calabrese-Benton.

In late 2007, the department started taking soil samples in residential areas close to the plant. Twelve soil samples came back with high lead counts.

Officials distributed 800 pamphlets to nearby homes and businesses, warning them of the results. Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health conducted lead screenings for children and pregnant women.

According to the Department of Health, children absorb lead easier than adults.

Results should be available within 7 days. If a test comes back positive, the patient will be asked to seek treatment from a physician.

Toni Bounds, an environmental epidemiologist with the Tennessee Department of Health, said high lead levels could affect a child?s I.Q. and create learning disabilities. Damage to the kidneys could also occur.

Amber Taylor was one of several expecting mothers taking advantage of the testing Thursday afternoon.

"I have family and relatives that live right behind it, and I visit them and go by it every day with my windows rolled down," said Taylor.

Norfolk Southern said they're now responsible for the plant site. TDEC is working with the company to figure out a way to clean the property up.

Two potential fixes include capping the areas that contain lead or removing contaminated soil.

Another lead screening for children and pregnant women is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon from 1 to 6. The tests are conducted inside the War Memorial Building on B Street.