Brockovich to test for lead contamination in Missouri lead belt

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 ~ Updated 11:00 PM

PARK HILLS, Mo. -- Environmental activist Erin Brockovich and her colleagues will be in Missouri's Old Lead Belt region this week, testing yards for lead contamination.

The Park Hills Daily Journal reported Tuesday that Brockovich, environmental investigator Robert Bowcock and others plan to test yards in Park Hills and Desloge for lead and other contaminants. Brockovich is best known for the Julia Roberts movie that bears her name.

Lead and other minerals were mined for more than a century in the area about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis. Leftover mine waste was piled into massive mounds known as chat piles that still exist in and around Park Hills, Desloge, Bonne Terre and Leadwood.

Wind can blow the waste into nearby yards and waterways, creating the potential for lead contamination. Long-term or repeated exposure to lead can affect the blood, central nervous system and organs and harm human reproduction or development.

Brockovich's legal team has already filed two lawsuits over lead contamination in the Leadwood area.

The Doe Run Co. inherited responsibility for the waste when it bought the St. Joe Mine Co. Doe Run officials say the company is dedicated to making sure the region is safe.

"Many of our team live and work in St. Francois County and we are dedicated to doing a good job," Doe Run project manager John Carter said.

Brockovich and Bowcock began their investigation more than a year ago, after Leadwood resident Christy Briley contacted them with complaints. They have hosted several community meetings during the past year, assuring residents that their concerns are heard and their yards will be tested.

"We already have a list of people, but others can still sign up for testing," Bowcock told the newspaper.

Brockovich and Bowcock believe the region is contaminated not only with lead but with other heavy metals including cadmium and zinc.

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Information from: Daily Journal, http://dailyjournalonline.com

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