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This poison-filled neighborhood was known as the 'arsenic triangle' — then, local residents decided to fight back

The arsenic contamination has been a known issue since 1994.

Arsenic Triangle toxic pollution

Photo Credit: iStock

For decades, a Minneapolis neighborhood has been plagued with toxic chemicals in its soil, says the Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality

Dubbed the "Arsenic Triangle," the area is home to many people of color. As the city has refused to investigate the contaminated area and has even proposed more polluting projects on the site, residents have founded the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute to fight back.

What is the Arsenic Triangle?

The Arsenic Triangle is the name for the arsenic-polluted area surrounding the CMC Heartland Lite Yard, a disused lot on the corner of 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue in South Minneapolis. 

The area is named after the three-sided lot, whose chemical processing and storage from 1938 to 1968 contaminated the surrounding residences. The chemical seeped out into the soil, and dust from the lot has also been carried by the wind to surrounding areas. 

The affected neighborhood is made up of more than 70% of people of color and is home to the U.S.'s only Section 8 housing geared toward Indigenous residents, Little Earth.

Why is this still a problem?

The arsenic contamination has been a known issue since 1994. Arsenic is one of the most well-known poisons in the world, causing cancer as well as nerve and artery damage. It is especially toxic when eaten or inhaled, so the danger of living and raising children on contaminated soil seems obvious.

But rather than clean up the area, the city of Minneapolis intends to demolish the warehouse and use the site for new construction, the Sahan Journal reports — potentially releasing even more toxic dust. 

The city has said that the noticeably heightened rates of cancer in the neighborhood could be caused by other factors that are "difficult to sort out from contaminant (arsenic) exposures." 

The Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality notes that this dismissive attitude is common when it comes to hazards in minority and low-income communities.

How the community is fighting back

Residents of the Arsenic Triangle have banded together to create the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, an organization dedicated to protecting the East Phillips neighborhood, the site of the Arsenic Triangle, from further pollution. 

This organization developed a plan to safely turn the CMC Heartland Lite Yard into an indoor urban farm and community center, but the city rejected the proposal and has pushed for demolition. This was scheduled to take place at the end of February, but the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute secured a judicial order to postpone the work until their legal appeal is decided.

According to environmental sociologist Dorceta Taylor, there is "a long history of noxious and hazardous facilities being located within or close to minority and low-income communities." 

However, in the last 30 years, there has been "a sustained movement focused on environmental inequalities" that has risen to defend them.

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