In 1983 — 14 years after the plant closed — the community compelled state and federal investigators to order samples from the site, the surrounding streets and the river. The testing uncovered alarming levels of dioxin, a carcinogen linked to reproductive and developmental problems in humans. According to the state, soil samples at the site showed concentrations of up to 51,000 parts per billion, and off-site, up to 15 parts per billion. In 1984, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established just 1 part per billion in soil as a “level of concern” in residential areas.
Today many longtime residents can recall stories of people playing in and around the Diamond Alkali site before it was capped, or eating food grown in soil potentially tainted by chemicals like dioxin. Nonetheless, there are few studies looking at long-term health effects, birth defects and cancer, environmental advocates say.
In 1984, the