EPA orders cleanup of Park Hills chat piles

Thursday, March 24, 2005

PARK HILLS, Mo. -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday ordered Doe Run Co. to clean up massive piles of lead mine waste in the eastern Missouri town of Park Hills, saying the piles are causing contamination of surrounding properties and a river. The order will require Doe Run, a St. Louis-based company that is the nation's leading lead producer, to re-grade the so-called chat piles and cover them with rock and soil. The EPA also will require air monitoring and surface runoff sampling. Doe Run will have one year to complete the project after EPA approves the plan.

The chat piles in Park Hills, about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis, are something of a local landmark. The brown mounds rise high above the landscape.

Children have been known to play on them, sometimes sledding down them during the winter.

The material is leftover tailings from mining activities years ago -- Park Hills is in the heart of Missouri's Old Lead Belt.

High levels of lead exposure in young children can potentially slow their growth, lower IQ and cause behavioral problems.

The EPA said wind has blown the loose chat airborne, at times carrying lead and zinc contamination to adjacent properties. Wind and storm-water runoff has contaminated the Flat River, the EPA said, noting that the state has issued fish consumption warnings because of elevated lead levels found in several species in the Flat River.

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