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Residents get chance to hear about lead cleanup

Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials will meet with Washington County residents tonight to discuss the second phase of lead cleanup in the county.

The public meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Richwoods Elementary School. A similar meeting took place Wednesday night in Potosi.

The agencies have been working to identify private wells that are contaminated with lead. The next step is to remove any contaminated dirt from homes with lead-contaminated water.

The agencies divided Washington County into three sections of lead detection and removal. Those sections are Potosi, Old Mines and Richwoods. Results will be presented for each section.

One topic of discussion tonight is a suggested disposal site for the contaminated soil.

“We are recommending that it be disposed of by placing it on the mine tailings at old Indian Creek mine,” said Dianna Whitaker, community involvement coordinator for the EPA. “We are raising the idea in the community, and they will have 45 days to comment.”

The agencies identified well contamination last year after studying sections of the county. The study was part of a grant to study parts of the state where lead, barite or zinc was mined, milled or smelted. Washington County is part of the Old Leadbelt Area, which also includes St. Francois, Madison and several other counties in southeastern Missouri.

Concern about elevated blood lead levels in children who live in mining areas spurred the statewide study. The local study found elevated lead levels at 10 public sites, which led to the DNR taking more than 3,000 soil samples from residential yards in Mineral Point, Springtown, Cadet, Kingston, Richwoods, Old Mines, Tiff, Washington County State Park, Firman Desloge Park, Pea Ridge, Iron Mine and St. Joe Indian Creek areas.

Of those properties, 305 had lead levels of more than 400 ppm, including 90 properties that contained more than 1,200 ppm of lead, DNA and EPA officials said in October.

Cost to remove and replace contaminated soil, then seed yards in the most crucial areas will be paid by the EPA.

Meanwhile, the agencies also are trying to identify the company(ies) that caused the contamination problem. If they are successful, those companies would be responsible for paying the cleanup and restoration costs.

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