In January of 2005, The Alley newspaper’s focus on health began with a two page feature article on arsenic pollution in the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis. The Alley began to make the point that if arsenic did spread from the site at the east edge of Phillips, it was very likely that the contamination did not stop at the political or geographic borders of Phillips.
The Alley continued to publish in-depth articles about this contentious topic with stories and announcements of meetings and bureaucratic responses. Slowly the awareness of the potential contamination to neighborhoods beyond Phillips increased.
Finally in 2007 a broad area, including neighborhoods surrounding the arsenic triangle at 28th and Hiawatha, was declared a federal Superfund project. The Minnesota Department of Health agreed to begin a study to document environmental hazards affecting community residents.
The Alley newspaper contributed largely to the change in public awareness and brought more political pressure to broaden the remediation efforts. The Alley published nine articles about arsenic contamination between January 2005 and November 2007 alone. Alley writer H. Lynn Adelsman and State Representative Karen Clark—a Phillips resident—are largely responsible for the successes of this campaign.
In October 2009, The Alley reported that the Environmental Protection Agency will use the $10-25 million in Recovery Act funds allocated to the Minneapolis Residential Soil Contamination site to conduct all cleanup and restoration work at the approximately 500 remaining residential properties with soils above the arsenic soil cleanup standard. The activities include the excavation and off-site disposal of all contaminated soil above the cleanup standard, with excavation to occur to a depth of 12 inches in lawn areas and 18 inches in garden areas.
The arsenic triangle would not have become a federal Superfund project without the additional pressure from citizens beyond Phillips. The Alley was able to unite residents from throughout Minneapolis to take an interest in and become active on an environmental and health issue that affected everyone, without regard to age, race, or economic status.