Residents of Owensboro Historic Residence have been notified that trichloroethylene (TCE) vapor is seeping through the basement floor of the residential building.

On June 16, residents were notified via letter from Kansas-based property management firm Cohen-Esrey Communities, LLC, that Owensboro-based holding company and manufacturer MPD inc., at 316 E. Ninth St. and directly across the street from the Historic Residence, had discovered the TCE according to the letter sent to residents.

“MPD recently advised us (Cohen-Esrey) that it has discovered trichloroethylene (“TCE”) in groundwater beneath its building,” according to the letter. “And that prompted the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet to require MPD to investigate and characterize the extent to which TCE and its breakdown products have impacted MPD’s property and neighboring properties, including our apartment building.”

TCE is a halocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent to remove oils and grease from metal parts during manufacturing, to make refrigerants and other chemicals, and has been commonly used among dry cleaners.

TCE, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, is a “is a known human carcinogen, interferes with normal early-life development, is toxic to the immune system and kidneys and is associated with neurological damage; among other harmful health effects.” It is a common and persistent toxic chemical that frequently contaminates water, land and air of communities across the country and has still not been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the EDF.

Cohen-Esrey has tried to ease residents concerns through a comprehensive and highly number laden description detailing how, “while the levels detected in the basement of the facility are slightly higher than the Kentucky and EPA default screening of .48 ug/m3 for residential air,” that there isn’t a significant health worry, and that Cohen-Esrey, “believes neither TCE nor its breakdown products are present in detectable levels in the first or higher floors of the building.”

While Cohen-Esrey has arranged for MPD to monitor the air near the basement stairwell as well as the basement lounge and leasing office, and while MPD has agreed to install a Vapor Mitigation System by Sept. 1 to minimize how much TCE enters the building and to monitor the indoor air to ensure the efficiency of the system, residents of the Historic Residencies are not resting easier after the notification letter.

Kadara “Kas” Scott, who has lived with her husband and two children at the former manufacturing facility since it opened to residents in 2018, says that the information that they have received so far from Cohen-Esry has been “insulting” and lacking in transparency.

“A major concern for many of us right now is the amount of exposure,” she said. “The basement of the building is where we do our laundry and that is where it is emanating from. There is also a lot of children in this building and that is a major concern for many of us. It is a long time between now and September.”

According to Scott, leaders with MDA are expected to hold a community meeting with residents to address concerns but they have yet to set a date, Scott said.

“We are supposed to be able to ask questions what we feel we have been kept in the dark about,” she said. “There has not been a great deal of transparency on how long this has been going on and what the risks actually are. Basically, they are saying that is you are working age without pre-existing conditions you can be down there for hours and be fine. That is no comfort. I feel like they are trying to break everything down into layman’s terms which is almost insulting. I would rather them just be straightforward and transparent.

“The first letter we received was very vague and essentially said ‘this is what is going on and we expect you to pay your rent and not to worry.’ That is why we are having that meeting because the first letter unacceptable in terms of highlighting the risk.”

The extent of MPD’s TCE issue for neighboring properties is unknown. Representatives for MPD and Cohen-Esrey as well as Historic Residencies Property Manager Jessica Walton did not respond to interview requests.

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com.

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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