LAKE TIMBERLINE – A few dozen people attended an Environmental Protection Agency meeting at the Lake Timberline Paddle Club Thursday night to hear about which contaminated yards will be removed first and where the contaminated soil will be taken.
After a resident raised a concern about the possibility of contamination in Lake Timberline, the EPA collected soil and water samples from more than 260 residential properties, and analyzed them for the presence of lead and other heavy metals.
Of those sampled, 105 properties were above 1,200 ppm (parts per million). Another 105 were between 400 and 1,200 ppm. A total of 153 were less than 400 ppm. The EPA’s concern level is about 400 ppm.
One resident asked if the highest level was about 3,100 to which the start contractor said yes. “Yeah, that was my yard,” the man said.
Jeff Weatherford, on-scene coordinator for the EPA project, said 277 wells were tested and only one came back with a high level of lead, cadmium, arsenic and/or barium. He suspects that this may be a plumbing problem. They want to resample there to see if it is coming from the plumbing or the ground water.
He said the 105 properties above 1,200 ppm fall under time-critical removal action.
Highest priorities will be properties above 400 ppm where children with elevated blood lead levels live – if there are any cases; properties above 1,200 ppm where small children or pregnant women live; and child high use areas such as playgrounds and parks. Once yards with contaminated soil above 1,200 ppm are replaced, they will work on replacing yards above 400 ppm where children live – as funding is available.
“We won’t get everybody right away,” an EPA official said, “so please be patient.”
Response time will depend on the budget and the weather.
The owner’s first step to be put on a yard removal schedule is to sign an access agreement to allow contractors onto their yards.
Land owners will have to prepare their yard for soil replacement by removing junk in their yard or other things they don’t want disturbed. The contractor can work around landscaping. Soil will be removed six to 12 inches and yards will be back-filled with clean soil and then hydro-seeded. The homeowner will have to water the grass until it grows.
The contaminated soil will be hauled to the large tailings area in Bonne Terre east of U.S. 67 which has not been remediated yet.
“That area could use vegetation,” Weatherford said. The tailings average about 2,000 ppm so the Lake Timberline soil and especially the grass will help the area. He said eventually those tailings will be covered with clean soil and capped to keep the tailings from blowing.
The chat pile and the tailings area west of U.S. 67 in Bonne Terre has already been remediated and won’t be involved in the project.
David Black, a local contractor, complained that the 105 properties above 1,200 ppm, which are considered to be a “time-critical removal action” won’t be put out for bid. They will be awarded to the EPA’s Environmental Restoration contractor.
“It all ought to be put out for bid,” Black said.
Black complained that the EPA is basically giving the contractor a blank check using tax payer money. When asked how a Environmental Restoration contractor is chosen, EPA officials said they believe that contractor position comes up for bid every five to seven years.
Jason Gunter, EPA Remedial Project manager, told Black that those 105 properties are a small project compared to the soil removal projects that will come up in the area in the years to come.
He said local contractors will be allowed to bid on non-time critical work. Also, 300 contaminated yards are coming up for bid, probably in early May. This is due in part because the St. Francois County Commission pushed officials to allow local contractors at least a chance at some of the area yard work.
EPA officials speculate that contaminated soil was brought into Lake Timberline from elsewhere as fill. They won’t know for sure until the soil removal project starts. There is also a rail line near the community that has contaminated soil.
Data collected on the levels of contamination at the beach and lakes were not available at Thursday night’s meeting. However, an official indicated that the EPA came to Lake Timberline after a resident voiced concern about one of the lakes being dug up.
“If we need to have another meeting to discuss the lake situation, we will,” said Gunter after apologizing for not having those numbers on-hand.
In the past, the EPA has focused on Halo areas or areas within so many feet of a chat pile, smelter or shaft. Gunter estimates the Doe Run Company has already had 550 of those properties cleaned up.
In addition to the EPA, officials from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health and Senior Services also attended the meeting. A representative of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson’s office also attended.
Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.