Approximately 70 people listened in the West County High School cafeteria Thursday night as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) addressed concerns about the Leadwood mine tailings.
State and local officials, as well as a member of the state Attorney General’s office also attended the meeting, which lasted more than two hours. Gene Gunn, EPA Superfund branch chief in Region 7, presented a slide show that addressed the agency’s new conditions and requirements issued to Doe Run regarding remediation of the tailings.
Gunn also debunked several allegations about the dumping of contaminated soil and septage on the pile. The EPA is conducting its own investigation into the allegations, he added.
For example, environmental activist Robert Bowcock, who is investigating the situation on behalf of residents, recently told citizens that the hauler bringing Class B biosolids to the Leadwood tailings does not have a permit to do so. Neither the EPA nor the state requires haulers to have a permit, Gunn said. They do have to follow certain regulations and turn in periodic reports, he added.
Accusations that someone is dumping human waste from portable toilets onto the Leadwood tailings are untrue according to Gunn.
“No raw sewage has been dumped in Leadwood,” he told the crowd. “A port-a-potty hauler did use company trucks to clean up the spill of biosolids at the intersection of 8 and P. Some of that went to Leadwood and some went to Desloge.”
The new order to Doe Run has stopped all discharge of Class B biosolids until Doe Run has presented a plan that is acceptable to EPA. Doe Run must notify the mayor of Leadwood and the EPA project manager five days before any biosolids may be discharged at Leadwood, and Doe Run must be present when the material is discharged.
Also, the proposal to bring contaminated soil from Jefferson County to the Leadwood tailings has been stopped, EPA officials said.
“If we decide to bring that up again, we’ll hold another meeting,” Gunn promised.
The photos of portable toilet waste that are being circulated were taken in Desloge, where discharge of the waste is permitted, not in Leadwood as some people contend, Gunn insisted.
Citizens disagreed with some of the EPA findings.
“When you say they are not dumping contaminated soil on the tailings, you are calling us liars,” Jodie Briley said. “We have seen it. We followed them when they dumped contaminated dirt to the tailings.”
Dan Rohrback agreed with Briley.
“We saw Fresh and Clean tank trucks and port-a-potties on a trailer go in there,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of evidence.”
Fresh and Clean owner Josh Campbell insists that his drivers have never dumped septage from the toilets on the Leadwood pile.
John Carter, Doe Run’s project manager, said he has been all over the 500 acres of tailings and has seen no evidence of septage or contaminated dirt.
“If all this stuff is being dumped, where is it?” he asked after the meeting. “There’s no place to hide it.”
Kara Valentine of the Attorney General’s office said they are investigating the complaints.
“I have seen some photos,” she said. “And, we’ve taken our own. The investigation is ongoing.”
Valentine said she did not have a time frame for wrapping up the investigation.
A relatively new resident in Leadwood said she was not told that there was lead in the yard when she bought her Leadwood home. Catherine Brown also complained that her water is brown and she asked why.
“This is just terrible,” she said. “I feel sorry for these (other) people, because they have it worse. I hope and I pray that those in charge take care of these people, because I think they have some bad issues.”
The EPA has sampled and analyzed water from 173 private wells and none has shown any lead contamination, Gunn told the crowd. Public water wells also show no signs of lead, Gunn said.
Rohrback complained that water samples are only being tested for minerals instead of bacteria. He held up a paper and said it was a test report that showed E coli in a sample of local water.
EPA officials told Rohrback they would like to look at his report and any other evidence backing residents’ accusations.
“We are saying that we have seen no evidence of some of these allegations,” explained Jason Gunter, EPA project manager who oversees the Superfund cleanup in St. Francois County. “If anyone has evidence, we’d like to see it.”
Tara Lewis displayed a hand-drawn map showing her property and the neighbors. She wanted to know why the neighbors on each side, whose property slopes onto hers, showed lead in the first round of testing when hers did not. A second test, however, showed lead, she said.
Carter explained that the first test was done during a phase in which only the yards with very high levels of lead were replaced with clean soil. In the second round of testing, yards were replaced if the soil lead levels were somewhat lower. In addition, the “flow” of lead contamination in the soil is unpredictable, so high lead levels could sit next to very low levels.
Several people raised concerns about health issues, including the possibility that lead contamination has increased the chance of cancer.
“St. Francois County does have high rates for cancer,” admitted Denise Jordan-Izaguirre of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). “But you also have a high rate of smoking. It’s really hard to do a study, because it has to be done over a 10- to 20- year period.”
Toward the end of the meeting Beverly Burgess, a board member of the water district that serves Frankclay, Wortham and Mitchell, complained that Doe Run is responsible for damage to water lines last spring. The company lowered the tailings over the water lines during the remediation near Wortham Road. Heavy storms in the spring uncovered the pipes and ripped them out of the ground, Burgess said.
The water district wants to be reimbursed for the $6,400 it lost in water revenues and repair expenses resulting from the damage, she added.
Carter gave her his card and asked her to send him a bill that he would bring to the company for consideration. He said he also planned to inspect the area to determine why the damage occurred.
Burgess said the district had never been reimbursed for damage Doe Run accidentally did to pipes about a year ago. However, she plans to present Carter with a bill for the spring repair.
After the meeting, representatives from EPA, ATSDR, Doe Run, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and others stayed to speak individually with concerned citizens and answer their questions.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at email@example.com.