Doe Run to hire firm to study claims

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

HERCULANEUM, Mo. -- The Doe Run Co. plans to hire an independent firm to investigate allegations made by former employees that the company buried toxic waste on the grounds of its smelter alongside the Mississippi River, the company said Tuesday.

A handful of former workers at Doe Run's smelter in Herculaneum have come forward in recent days, alleging they illegally buried toxic waste on the smelter grounds. State officials have said they plan to investigate the allegations. Doe Run, which has denied knowing about or giving consent to the dumping, said last week it would launch an internal investigation. But in a statement issued Tuesday, chief executive Jeff Zelms said the company is looking nationally for an outside firm to "conduct a thorough investigation and bring forward the truth."

"It is neither our policy nor practice to illegally dump materials, and any such action was taken without the knowledge or consent of Doe Run management," he said. Bob Nash, a Doe Run foreman for 13 years before he was fired in 1991, chuckled when he heard the statement Tuesday. Nash said he remembers relaying an order to bury railroad ties, contaminated by rail cars leaking toxic lead dust, in a massive slag pile near the smelter.

Connie Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said the state will make its own investigation into the dumping allegations.

"We're doing everything we can to tell everyone who has that kind of information to come forward," she said.

Doe Run is in the midst of a government-ordered cleanup of Herculaneum, 30 miles south of St. Louis. State health officials have found that about 45 percent of children tested near the smelter have high levels of lead in their blood.

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