Seward Neighborhood Group’s New Online Newsletter

Peter Fleck has been working on reviving a newsletter for the Seward Neighborhood in light of recent drop offs in local coverage caused by the death of two papers covering the community (Seward Profile and The Bridge).

Check it out, and subscribe at

By the way, if you haven’t heard of Posterous before, it’s kind of a blogging platform where you can publish content to your website via email. This makes it very easy for people to update their website using a tool they’re already very familiar with.

Run Minneapolis: Dorman, Seabury, 26th Ave S, 32nd St E

Saturday’s run with The Other Mike and Bill started along 46th Ave S where we headed North crossing E Lake Steet next to the West River Commons townhomes and apartments.

West River Commons

And my neighborhood car repair service, Electra Tune:

Electra Tune

We heading Northwest from there along Dorman, which parallels W River Rd a block in. The backyards of one of the West River Rd has a ginormous garage. I presume they’re acrobats:

Huge Garage

To the North of the tracks, we entered the Seward Neighborhoods and ran along Seabury Ave:

Seabury Ave Looking North

We crossed Franklin and ran a couple blocks on Franklin Terrace past Riverside Park:

Riverside Park

At 26th Ave S, we turned South, meandered past Franklin, then spotted this awesome block of historic homes along 22nd St E.:

Homes Along E 22nd St

Four blocks later, we passed Memory Lanes:

Memory Lanes

And New French Bakery’s baking (and retail) facility:

New French Bakery

Before 29th, we passed the eco-friendly 7 Sigma company’s building and parking lot where they’ve included rain gardens to capture and percolate run off:

7 Sigma Rain Garden

At Lake St, we passed the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct:

Minneapolis 3rd Precinct Police Station

And the long-standing Minnehaha Liquors:

Minnehaha Liquors

Followed by Patrick’s Cabaret in the old fire station 21 along Minnehaha Ave that was built in 1894:

Patrick's Cabaret

At 32nd St E, we turned left to complete the loop. The highlight of 32nd was the many churches we passed, such as the First Church of God:

First Church of God

Followed by the Epworth United Methodist Church:

Epworth United Methodist Church

And the Shower of Blessings Church?:

Shower of Blessings Church?

And Bethlehem Covenant Church:

Bethlehem Covenant Church

New Seward Coop – Coming Soon

Seward Coop - New Location

Carly and I had a chance to tour the new Seward Coop (we’re members) location at Franklin Ave & Riverside Ave (2823 E Franklin Ave?) during their open house on Sunday. The new location is 7 blocks to the East of their previous location and much larger, which has provided the opportunity for many great upgrades.

The new location has a larger parking lot and many more bike racks (this is just one of the sets of Seward Coop logo racks):

Bike Racks

Throughout the store, the aisles are much wider so using carts will be easier. The coop tends to attract an packaging-reader crowd, so things do tend to get congested at the current location. In the produce section island displays are on wheels to make seasonal changes easier:


The bulk section is much larger:

Larger Bulk Foods

Heated foods have increased from 3 to 11:

Hot Serve Area

Cheese has become more conversational with the new deli display:

Cheese Display

The deli has the largest increase in square footage (2.5X) with a juice bar, coffee (but no espresso), self and full serve pastries, hand-made sandwiches, and the cheese display:

Large Deli

The lounge is much larger and will offer free WiFi:

Dining Area

Upstairs, there is a new cooking classroom so keep an eye out for educational opportunities starting this spring:

Cooking Classroom

And offices. Currently, some of the employees have their offices off-site due to space limitations:


Employees have lockers upstairs, a shower, and access to a patio off the back of the building:

Employee Patio

A lot of green considerations have gone into the design of the building, including piping of natural light into the check-out area:

Solar Natural Light

Other changes include a larger seafood selection from Coastal Seafoods and a larger selection of prepared meals.

Overall, I’d say this is one heck of a great upgrade with many well-considered design decisions based on feedback from coop members. Thanks for the great work by all those involved.


Seward Neighborhood Sex Offender

Let’s say you screw up and get arrested for something. How long should that be on your record? Chances are, you’re thinking, “as short as possible” or “when I’m done serving my time.” Both seem logical.

So how would you feel if you were still getting beat down for something after serving your time?

That’s the nature of sex offenses these days. I have no idea of their recidivism rate is higher than that for other crimes, but the public reaction to the crimes is enough to make people have a hard time moving on.

I’m torn on whether this is news or not, so I’m going to compromise a bit.

A sex offender who’s served his time based on a crime he committed in 1996 is moving into the Seward Neighborhood to the 2400 block of 26th Ave S. I’m not going to mention his name here since it would likely appear in the top-10 results on Google if I did so, which could effect his chances of landing a job. if you care to learn more, just look up the case or shoot me an email for the deets.

He is by no means a perfect person. The crime he was convicted of is burglarizing a home, then having sexual contact with a 17 year old girl in the home he was ripping off. That’s bad on top of bad. It sounds like he also assaulted another girl and his underage sister before he turned 18.

He hasn’t been under “supervision” status since 2002, but has to register with the state through 2012.

So now he’s moving in a block from Matthew’s Park. Minneapolis, being Minneapolis, is the kind of city where everywhere is within blocks of a park. Hopefully, this guy has his life straightened out now.

Here’s a map for those who aren’t familiar with the area. The address isn’t necessarily 2400, but that’s the block.

View Larger Map

Arsenic Pollution in South Minneapolis

Arsenic is polluting South Minneapolis yards. Should it be cleaned up? If yes, how clean is clean? I hope this helps explain the current situation.

For some perspective, have you ever been in a situation where your car was making noises but you decided not to go to a mechanic because you could afford the repairs? What’s the point if you’re not going to be able to pay to fix problems the mechanic identifies, right?

There are similar issues facing the arsenic clean-up policies in South Minneapolis.

For those of you not familiar with the issue, several companies used to (1938-68) manufacture pesticides on a 5-acre lot at the NW corner of Hiawatha Ave and 28th St East. While the companies are long gone, the arsenic from the plant remained and disbursed well beyond the boundaries of the property.

South Minneapolis Arsenic Area

26 years passed and nobody did a thing about it. People went about their lives breathing in arsenic dust while their kids played in arsenic laden dirt.

In 1994, arsenic contamination was discovered on the former plant’s site.

11 years passed before the former pesticide plant property was finally cleaned up.

How will arsenic kill you? It’s a known carcinogen (can cause cancer), and has been linked to lung, skin (non-melanoma), bladder, and liver cancer. More info:

Exposure to low levels of arsenic can cause nausea and vomitting, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation of “pins and needles” in hands and feet. Ingesting or breathing low levels of arsenic for a long time can cause a darkening of the skin and the appearance of small corns or warts on the palms, soles, and torso. Skin contact with arsenic may cause redness and swelling. Several studies have shown that exposure to high levels of arsenic can increase the risk of several types of cancer.

What About the Neighborhoods?

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) tested the soil on residential properties for arsenic levels, and created this pretty map. The green diagonal line is Hiawatha Ave and the horizontal grid bar follow 28th St E:

Arsenic Dispersion Boundary Map
You can click on the map and the “All Sizes” link from the Flickr page to view larger versions.

A few quick observations regarding the above map:

  • It’s not clear to me how the radius of 0.8 miles came to be the boundary limit for testing.
  • It’s also not clear why that wasn’t expanded further East after finding high levels of arsenic in yards just within the arbitrary boundary.
  • Dark blue dots signify yards with low levels of arsenic. Most yards fall into this category.

What is a High Level?

Minneapolis City Councilman Gary Schiff sent out a newsletter earlier this week where he explained that properties with “very high” levels of arsenic are being cleaned up, with 160 out of 200 done to date.

Since 2004, the EPA has collected soil samples from more than 3,000 properties in the area. To date, nearly 200 properties have shown very high arsenic contamination levels, requiring emergency cleanup. Of these, about 160 will be cleaned up by late October.

Apparently, “very high” levels of arsenic is defined as 95 parts per million (PPM) or higher.

Schiff went on to explain the situation regarding properties with high, but not “very high” levels of arsenic (lower than 95PPM, but higher than what would be considered normal or safe):

The EPA is completing a health risk assessment of the affected neighborhoods this year, and will set a final cleanup goal. Superfund money will be made available for cleanup of residential properties that are below an arsenic concentration of 95 parts per million, but the final level of cleanup remains undetermined. Community input will be sought throughout the process. Click here for more information on the EPA’s activities.

So, the EPA is going to clean up yards beyond those testing above 95PPM. But how many? What’s the standard for removal?

What’s a safe level?

I don’t know, but I think I have a good idea of what a “normal” level is. 10PPM or less. That’s based on my observation of hundreds of blue dots on the map showing that yards without pollution seem to fall into that range.

Will all properties testing higher than 10PPM be cleaned up to reach that standard? Not likely.

Here’s how I think this is going to go down:

The EPA has a certain amount of money available to work on this project (referred to as a “cost ceiling”). They also know how much it costs to clean up a yard. With those two numbers in mind, they know how many yards they can afford to clean.

Let’s say they have enough money to clean 500 yards. If that’s the case, do you think they’re going to tell 1000 property owners that they’re living on poisonous property? Probably not. Clean-up or not, they should provide information to residents so they can make informed decisions on things like having a vegetable garden in arsenic contaminated soil.

What has the EPA done in other areas of the country?

I reviewed the EPA’s reports on other arsenic clean-ups around the country to find out what arsenic concentrations were used. Here is what I found ranked from least to most clean. Minneapolis current clean-up level is 95 ppm.

In Montana, an EPA clean-up was done on properties hitting 80 ppm (they’ve done better than Minneapolis):

On October 26, 1998, excavation and stockpiling of the contaminated arsenic soil and tailings pile was begun (Arsenic is the contaminant of concern; and, as determined by EPA toxicologists, the cleanup level is set for 80 parts per million);

In Colorado a clean-up addressed properties hitting more than 70 ppm for arsenic:

Lead and arsenic were the two metals identified to be of potential concern in some yards. Based on the investigation, EPA issued its final cleanup decision in 2003. EPA then began removing and replacing soil in yards where sampling results showed more than 400 parts per million (ppm) for lead and/or 70 ppm for arsenic.

It’s noted in a GE clean-up letter than Massachusetts defines arsenic levels of 40 ppm as a “potential Imminent Hazard”:

The preliminary pre-design investigation results indicate the detection of arsenic in two surface soil samples at concentrations that exceed the threshold set forth in the Massachusetts Contingency Pian (.MGP) for reporling a potential Imment Hazard for arsenic (40 ppm).

In Illinois, they treated properties with arsenic parts per million in the 20-40 ppm range:

PNA, under U.S. EPA oversight, began a time-critical removal action at the two yards in December 2003, excavating arsenic-impacted soil above about 20-40 milligrams per kilogram (“parts per million” or “ppm”) and disposing of the impacted soil in an off-site landfill.

In El Paso, TX, the EPA decided that 24 ppm should be the safety screening level, but ran into issues when the number of properties hitting that criteria exceeded their alloted clean-up budget (sound familiar?):

Since the signing of the current AM on July 10, 2002, the EPA has received validated laboratory results from approximately 1,843 residential properties and has determined that approximately 1,050 properties exceed the EPA and TCEQ screening levels of 500 ppm for lead and/or 24 ppm for arsenic (with 83 properties over 60 ppm arsenic and 39 properties over 1,500 ppm lead). Due to the large number of residential property soil sample results that exceed the screening levels, the removal costs will exceed the current $2 million ceiling. At the time of the signing of the original AM the number of properties in need of a removal action was not known.

In Washington, DC, arsenic clean-up of residents was conducted all the way down to 20 ppm:

The site-wide soil cleanup standard for arsenic has been finalized at 20 parts per million (ppm) by EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington DC Health Department.

A Cascade, Maryland Superfund site was reclaimed to 17 ppm:

A risk-based soil cleanup goal for arsenic of not to exceed 17 ppm was calculated to be protective of both child and adult residential receptors. This cleanup goal was met during the time-critical removal action. As a result, there is no unacceptable risk to human health for the current and future land use at OU9.

In Nebraska, a former battery recycling facility’s site is being reclaimed to “naturally-occurring levels” of 16 ppm:

Arsenic contamination would be cleaned up to naturally-occurring levels, with a calculated cleanup standard of 16 ppm.

As of today, Minneapolis’ clean-up efforts are represented by the big blue bar on the left side of this chart. Compare that to the standards applied elsewhere in the United States:

Arsenic Clean-Up border=

How Clean is Clean enough?

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the EPA and Minnesota Department of Health don’t plan on cleaning up arsenic to “naturally occurring background levels”:

What will the residential cleanup goal be for arsenic?
The emergency cleanups of residential properties by the EPA are presently based on an acute level of 95 parts per million (ppm).  While the local naturally occurring background level for arsenic has not been determined it is anticipated to be somewhere between ten (10) and seventeen (17) ppm.  The actual residential cleanup goal for arsenic in South Mpls is still under review by the EPA and MDH, but can be anticipated to be above the naturally occurring background level and below the acute level used for the emergency cleanups.

“Below the acute level” doesn’t sound all that great.

Does cleaner, but not clean, cut it for you? Is Massachusetts’ 40ppm “Imminent Hazard” guideline worth considering as a standard? Or, should Minneapolis receive the same treatment communities near Washington, DC  on in Nebraska received?

And, what about the areas East of the current testing boundaries? Many properties in this area likely test well above normal levels. Should we be pushing to have the testing boundaries extended?

When Gary Schiff says, “Community input will be sought throughout the process,” now you know why. It’s going to take public pressure to keep the EPA working on this issue in Minneapolis.

The Brackett Rocket is Back!

The Brackett Rocket is Back!, originally uploaded by edkohler.

It’a official. The Brackett Rocket has returned to Brackett Park. For those not familiar with Brackett Park, it’s on 28th St E in South Minneapolis a few blocks West of the Mississippi.

It’s been gone for years after being replaced by a more child safe playground fixture.

Previously, kids could climb up inside the steel barred structure. One of my brother-in-law’s head was stuck between the bars as a child in the ’80’s.

Now it’s on a pedestal that puts it around 6 feet off the ground and banks at and angle.

Will this be a draw? Probably not to the same degree as a rocket kids could explore and potentially hurt themselves on.

Once again, Brackett Park can be referred to as “The Park with the Rocket.” Rock on.

Video Stalking Children at Brackett Park

Thank you to Hillary for noticing some odd behavior at Brackett Park and doing something about it:

Man accused of videotaping kids at Minneapolis pool

A Minneapolis man faces charges after authorities said he was videotaping young children at a pool.

According to witnesses, Corey Hayslett of Minneapolis was standing outside a fence at Brackett Park with a video camera.

Hillary Oppmann was in the wading pool with her 1-year-old son when she noticed Hayslett.

There is a video on KSTP’s site at above link.

Carly lived in Seward and played at that park when she was a child. Of course, that was before video cameras.

Birchwood Cafe Buses Tables Now

Birchwood Cafe Buses Tables Now, originally uploaded by edkohler.

One of the complaints I’ve heard in the past from people who weren’t entirely sold on the Birchwood Cafe was that you had to bus your own tables after you’re done eating. Well, that policy has apparently gone the way of the dodo bird.

Things were hopping today with packed sidewalk seating. Lots of bikers.

Birchwood is using a local CSA for much of their produce. Very cool.

Sex Offender Staying West of the Tracks

I swear Hiawatha Ave & the associated LRT tracks act as some form of DMZ line separating Longfellow and Seward from neighborhoods to the West.

The latest instance reinforcing this is news that the sex offender who was planning to move into Seward now staying put to the West of the tracks.

The updated report from Shun Tillman didn’t mention why the plans changed. Moving to a block from a park might not have been the best plan, but with so many parks in Minneapolis, NOT moving to near a park might not be the easiest thing in the world to do.

Minneapolis WiFi Update

Peter Fleck has a great update on the Minneapolis WiFi scene. It turns out it’s available now in Seward. He even has a link to a map of the WiFi antennas.

The PF HYPER Blog: Wireless in Minneapolis

If you live in the Seward area, you can also subscribe to the system for $14.95/month (1-3Mbps) or $24.95/month (3-6Mbps). The subscription service is in place as they sent out a mailing a while back.

A comfortable place for wireless exploration would be the 2nd Moon Coffee Shop at 2225 East Franklin Avenue. You should be able to see the USI Wireless network there and you can browse the Web via the free wireless at 2nd Moon if you don’t want to pay USI for some browsing time.