Case Study: Hennepin County Environmental Response Fund (ERF) Contamination Cleanup Grant

The Debra Selam Orthodox Church, a minority-owned non-profit, holds a 2.67-acre property in the Seward Neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The property was initially developed in the 1900s with several residential dwellings and associated outbuildings. It remained in similar use until the early 1950s when the dwellings were removed, and the parcel was cleared.

It was redeveloped in 1953 with the 77,300-square foot Hauenstein & Burmeister (H&B) elevator manufacturing facility and associated improvements. Hauenstein & Burmeister primarily used the land for elevator equipment manufacturing, automotive repair, metal working, and assembly, with continued operations until the early 2010s. The building was demolished in 2014 and the property was left vacant. 

During demolition and grading activities, over 1,100-tons of stained concrete was disposed of at an industrial landfill. A 6,000-gallon fuel oil underground storage tank (UST) was discovered and removed, and a petroleum release was reported. Test pits revealed additional petroleum impacts and urban fill consisting of ash, glass, metal, wood, and plastic throughout the property to depths of up to 12-feet below grade. A Limited Site Investigation was completed to define the extent and magnitude of the petroleum impacts associated with the tank, and the petroleum release was issued site closure by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The Debra Selam Orthodox Church purchased the property in 2016. The Church contacted GZA to assist with environmental issues associated with the planned renovation of the property with a new church and community center. Previous investigations on adjoining and nearby properties identified a vapor intrusion concern with two sites to the east currently undergoing investigation and cleanup through the MPCA Site Response Program (Voluntary Superfund). Soil vapor gas samples collected on the Church property as part of investigations on the adjoining property detected trichloroethene (TCE ) exceeding 33Xs Residential Intrusion Screening Values (ISVs) within the proposed building footprint. Trichloroethene is a man-made chemical commonly found in metal finishing, machining, and other related operations and/or automotive repair operations as it is a strong degreaser. According to the MPCA and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), TCE exposure can have significant effects on human health. Exposure can affect the immune and reproductive systems, liver, kidneys, and central nervous system, and may affect fetal development during pregnancy. Long term exposures to TCE can increase the risk of kidney cancer and may increase the risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and liver cancer.

In June 2022, Minnesota became the first state to restrict most permitted uses of TCE. Due to the elevated levels of TCE on the property, the proposed redevelopment requires an active vapor mitigation system to protect the occupants of the building from potential vapor intrusion.

We worked closely with the Church and Hennepin County to secure grant money to pay for additional investigation and Response Action Plan development for the proposed redevelopment. The additional investigation was needed to further evaluate and delineate the previously identified impacts to shallow soil across the property prior to excavation activities. We completed the additional investigation which consisted of 16 additional soil probes for shallow soil sampling and analysis. The results were used to define the extents of cleanup required and to develop cost estimates for cleanup. The information gathered from the additional investigation was used to complete the Response Action Plan which was submitted to the MPCA and approved.

We then worked closely with the Debra Selam Medhanealem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County to secure an additional Hennepin County ERF grant to fund the cleanup of the property. With GZA’s help, the church was able to secure a $572,800 cleanup grant to fund contaminated soil management, environmental oversight, and the installation of an active vapor mitigation system in the new building to protect the occupants from potential TCE vapor intrusion.

Due to rising labor, materials, and construction costs, the project is currently on hold, but there is hope that the project gets back on track in the coming new year. Projects like this are important to the community and provide a safe gathering space for all residents, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, color, or national origin. We are proud to be working with the Church and hope this project can come to fruition.