EPA will test roads leading to SEMO Port

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Environmental Protection Agency says lead contamination may have affected roads along the way to the SEMO Port, but tests of soils along those roads haven't yet been conducted.

Dianna Whitaker, a public affairs specialist with the EPA based in Kansas City, Mo., said Monday that shipments of lead concentrate from the Doe Run Co. could have contaminated soils along the roads leading from Doe Run's mines and smelter in the Lead Belt to the SEMO Port.

"That's based on our experience with other locations where we have sampled," Whitaker said. Doe Run trucks haul lead concentrate to the port, where it is loaded onto barges for international shipping. Doe Run has a long history of problems associated with lead contamination of soils and air in the lead belt. Recently the company has come under increased scrutiny from the EPA for lead contamination along trucking routes. The EPA and Doe Run negotiated an agreement to reduce the contamination, which is produced when lead and lead dust fall off trucks along their routes.

Lead is toxic to humans and most harmful to children. Elevated levels of lead in children can impair intelligence, slow growth and cause behavioral problems.

The agreement is in the public comment phase, which ends Friday. Whitaker said that after the comment period the order will be implemented and sampling will begin at the SEMO Port, but she did not say exactly when it will occur.

A lead concentrate spill occurred at the SEMO Port in early 2004 when some of the substance was accidentally dumped into the harbor. Port director Dan Overbey said the company and the port are taking steps to prevent contamination, including building a new warehouse to store the concentrate and a new system for loading it onto barges

Doe Run has been trucking lead concentrate, about 75 percent to 78 percent pure lead, to the port for about four years. Cleanup from the 2004 spill is still ongoing.

The EPA has found high levels of lead in soils along historical trucking routes between Doe Run's New Mine Belt facilities in Iron, Reynolds and Dent counties and its primary lead smelter in Herculaneum, Mo. Those routes have been used to haul the toxic metal since the 1960s.

Doe Run's spokesperson did not return calls Monday, but provided the Southeast Missourian with a news release detailing steps that will be taken to reduce lead contamination on trucking routes. Among those steps are creating more truck-washing stations and stationing Doe Run monitoring personnel at trucking destinations.

At the SEMO Port, Girardeau Stevedores handles the shipping of lead. Overbey said the Doe Run Co., in partnership with Girardeau Stevedores, is building a warehouse for more than $3 million that will store lead and load it directly onto barges using a telescoping chute to prevent more lead from being spilled.

Sources with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the EPA and the SEMO Port could not identify the route Doe Run's trucks take from the mining and milling area to the SEMO Port. But Bob Hinkson, chief of the remedial project management unit for the DNR's superfund section, said the most logical route would be down Highway 72 from Fredericktown. Trucks would then travel through Jackson before getting onto Interstate 55 at Center Junction.

Hinkson said he has no knowledge of any testing that has occurred in the Jackson area, so he can't comment on any contamination.

"Without any test results it's hard to make a definitive statement," Hinkson said.


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