St. Paul: Morning Star Church

The Morning Star Church is located on an approximately 1-acre parcel at 739 Selby Ave. This parcel is in an area of mixed residential and commercial development, and past occupants of the parcel have included residential, commercial, and industrial tenants.

Former businesses on the site have included a dry cleaning business that was in operation from 1949 through the mid-1960s, and a manufacturing facility with vulcanizing operations that likely involved the use of solvents. The manufacturing facility operated from 1926 until the 1950s. An automotive repair facility and garage was also located nearby, and was in operation from the 1920s until the early 1970s.

A potential buyer is planning to purchase and redevelop the site. The buyer wants to demolish the Morning Star Church building and build a high-rise senior living facility attached to a new church building. During redevelopment, the buyer is planning to excavate soil across the bulk of the site to depths of 10-12 feet to install underground parking beneath the building.

Morning Star Church vapor intrusion site Area of Concern

What's the problem?

Environmental testing conducted prior to the start of redeveloping the site found elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and to a lesser extent, trichloroethylene (TCE) in soil vapor. PCE is a chemical that was commonly used in dry cleaning operations.

Groundwater contaminated with PCE or other chemicals can release vapors that can rise through the soil and seep through basement and foundation cracks into homes and other buildings, where it could be inhaled by people. This problem is referred to as vapor intrusion.

Plans call for installing a vapor intrusion mitigation system beneath new buildings at the site, and this system will protect occupants from breathing in any vapors. But residents in nearby homes and apartments many not be protected from vapor intrusion. The MPCA wants to test vapors beneath nearby buildings and eliminate any problems that are uncovered.

Health concerns

When chemical vapors enter buildings through the foundation, the amount in indoor air is usually not high enough to affect most people’s health. The possible health effects from breathing PCE depends on the amount in indoor air and how long people breathe it.

Long-term exposures to PCE may increase the risk of certain types of cancer based on studies in workers or animals breathing very high levels of these contaminants (thousands of times greater than what may be found at vapor intrusion sites). At high levels in the workplace, PCE can also cause neurological effects such as vision changes or delayed reaction time.

For more information regarding health and vapor intrusion please go to the Minnesota Department of Health website.

What's being done

MPCA staff are currently in the process of obtaining access agreements to conduct soil vapor sampling underneath building foundations at the residential properties in the area of concern. See the map above for locations of buildings where the MPCA would like to conduct this testing. A contractor has been hired to perform the environmental investigation once access has been obtained. 

Soil vapor and groundwater samples from borings may also be used to help define the extent of the area of concern.


Tim Lockrem

Pam Foster

Minnesota Department of Health