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EPA answers questions about National chat dump

PARK HILLS – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a question and answer session Thursday at the Central High School Auditorium concerning the future of the National Mine Tailings Site in Park Hills. The site is adjacent to the Park Hills Industrial Park.

Bruce Morrison of the EPA conducted a slide show about several options that could take place with the site.

“It has taken us a considerable amount of time to develop Engineering Evaluation/ Cost Analysis (EE/CA) for this site,” Morrison said. “A lot longer than we would have liked.”

Morrison said that Thursday marked the beginning of a public comment period that will last until Aug. 13.

“This is the opportunity for the public to voice their opinions to us as to how they would like to have this handled,” Morrison said. “After the period is over we will review the comments and make a decision in which way we are going to proceed.”

Morrison presented several scenarios the EPA could use in dealing with the tailings site.

“One scenario actually calls for doing nothing,” Morrison said. Through the use of administrative controls we would control the site.”

Morrison said the EPA is leaning toward alternative four for the site.

“The alternative calls for moderate regrading of the main chat pile with lowering it by 50 feet,” Morrison said. “Chat will be placed in the lower chat pile, west area industrial park area and the west area of the thin tailings area. The side slopes will be covered with rock and the flat areas will be covered with soil and vegetation.”

The EPA has estimated the cost of the project to be $16,850,000.

During the question and answer part of the presentation, Morrison was asked why no more than 50 feet could be taken off of the chat pile.

“By law we can only make the parties who are responsible pay for what is in the best interests of public health and safety,” Morrison said. “If we were to require them to go the extra mile then they could sue us and tie up more of the taxpayers’ money in court.”

One man who was in attendance asked Morrison how alternative four compared to what a community group recommended five years ago.

“They are very similar plans,” Morrison said. “Due to the costs being high, we were not able to go as far as the group’s recommendations.”

Ben Davis, of the University of Missouri Extension Officer, asked Morrison if the plan was a 100 percent solution.

“It is a 100 percent solution with proper maintenance,” Morrison said.

Davis followed by asking in the event of an earthquake, what would happen?

“There are no guarantees,” Morrison said. “It’s not 100 percent bulletproof.”

Another man in attendance asked if the EPA considered using an irrigation system with nutrients to cover the piles with natural vegetation instead of covering them with rock and excavating.

“It would cost a fraction of the projected cost,” the man said. “It would work.”

According to figures released by the EPA, Mining began at the National Mine in 1894 and ended in 1936. A health study conducted in 1998 showed 17 percent of the area’s children had a blood level of more than 10 ug/dl, which is considered the threshold by the EPA.

Written comments can be sent to: Debbie Kring, Community Involvement Coordinator-U.S. EPA-Region 7, Office of External Programs, 901 N. Fifth Street, Kansas City, KS 66101. Comments can be e-mailed to kring.debbie@epa.gov.

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