Missouri, EPA find no sign of dump

Thursday, July 18, 2002

HERCULANEUM, Mo. -- Excavations this week near the Doe Run Co.'s lead smelter have turned up no evidence of illegal toxic dumping, a Missouri Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman said.

Searchers for the DNR and the federal Environmental Protection Agency uncovered trash and crushed barrels, but nothing dangerous like the chemicals including cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, alleged to have been buried, DNR spokeswoman Connie Patterson said.

Patterson said workers monitored for PCBs and other toxic materials and pollutants, but "it didn't look like anything was there."

A spokeswoman for EPA, which headed the dig Monday and Tuesday, said the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations.

"Doe Run was told by the agencies at the scene that all testing was negative," said Barb Shepard, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis-based company.

The investigation began after Doe Run workers who lost their jobs after a 1992 strike showed a television reporter in April areas of the smelter where they said they were ordered to bury toxins.

At least one of those workers, Joe Boyer of Ste. Genevieve County, said he saw workers bury barrels of oil containing PCBs in 1986 or 1987. The manufacturing of PCBs, proven to cause cancer in laboratory animals, was banned in the United States in 1979.

Another worker, Kirby Moon of Festus, said he was assigned for years to dump air-filter bags filled with lead and other toxins near the Mississippi River. Moon said that dumping continued until at least 1992, when he was fired during the strike.

Soon after the allegations surfaced in April, a federal grand jury was empaneled to investigate. The status of that inquiry is not immediately known.

"It's certainly not our practice or policy to improperly dump material out there," Jerry Pyatt, Doe Run's chief operating officer, said in May. "We're anxious to look into the thing and put the allegations to rest ourselves."

In Herculaneum, about 30 miles south of St. Louis, Doe Run is in the midst of a $12 million government-ordered cleanup of yards and homes after officials found dangerous levels of lead in the soil. Doe Run also was ordered to update its smelter to pare air pollution in the 2,800-resident town.

Earlier this year, state health officials found that about 45 percent of children living near the smelter had high levels of lead in their blood when tested last year. Doe Run has said some of the exposure could be from lead paint in Herculaneum's older homes.

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