Parts of Missouri's Old Lead Belt identified for cleanup

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday proposed three sites in Missouri's Old Lead Belt for inclusion on the national Superfund cleanup list.

The three are in eastern Missouri's Washington County in its lead district at Old Mines, Potosi and Richwoods near the eastern Ozark Mountains.

The EPA proposes to put the sites on Superfund's National Priorities List of the nation's most complex and contaminated areas for cleanup.

The designation triggers 60 days of public comment, at which point the state could object to federal intervention. But Missouri has already agreed to it, and barring any other objection, the sites could be placed on the NPL by spring, said Ken Buchholz, regional EPA branch chief in the Superfund division.

Typically, citizens or states refer cases to the EPA for inclusion on the list.

The EPA has been assessing 1,200 lead mining and smelting sites in Missouri for the last decade, and identifying the worst for cleanup, Buchholz said.

Mining sites throughout Madison County and a lead tailings pile near the town of Annapolis -- both in Southeast Missouri -- were placed on Superfund's National Priorities List in recent years and are being cleaned up.

The three Washington County sites proposed Wednesday are contaminated with arsenic, barium, cadmium, and lead from historical mining practices in Southeast Missouri, according to the EPA Web site.

Soil and ground water are contaminated at the 20-square-mile Old Mines site in northeast Washington County.

The area, including 48 residential yards, has elevated levels of lead from mine tailings and mineral processing. More than 117 private residential wells are contaminated with unacceptable levels of lead.

Residents have been issued bottled water, and 40 contaminated yards have been excavated.

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