Gov. Jay Nixon announced on Tuesday nearly $2 million in several proposed restoration and development projects in areas of southeast Missouri impacted by decades of lead mining.
Nixon revealed the projects during an afternoon visit to Park Hills City Hall. The event was attended by local, city and county officials, along with members of the governor’s staff and Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Sara Parker Pauley.
Following an introduction by Park Hills City Manager Matt Whitwell, the governor said, “For generations lead production stretched across a large part of southeast Missouri. From right here in the heart of the old Leadbelt, west of the mines and smelters of Viburnum Trend and as far east and north as Herculaneum.
“Throughout most of the last century, Missouri was the nation’s leader in lead production. At its peak the industry supported thousands of jobs and sustained entire communities. Those benefits came at a heavy cost. We’ve seen the effects of lead pollution on our soil and water. This was especially tragic here in Missouri where we cherish that outdoor heritage.
“This is a heritage that runs deep here in southeastern Missouri that has some of the most beautiful scenery that you’ll find anywhere. Hunting, fishing and camping are time-honored traditions that are passed down from generation to generation.”
Nixon explained that it was for this reason that as attorney general he had taken action to make sure that the mining companies were held accountable for the pollution they caused and cleaned up the areas they damaged after closing down operations.
“The ASARCO settlement means we can address the legacy of lead in specific and meaningful ways and improving the health and well-being of our communities, including right here in Park Hills,” he said. “About five months ago I was here in St. Francois County at the Bone Hole, as well as in Madison County at the Fredericktown City Lake to talk about moving forward on land restoration projects in some of the areas that have been impacted by many years of lead mining.”
According to Nixon, four proposals have now been submitted to the Missouri Trustee Council which oversees the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) settlement funds.
If approved, the funding for the proposed projects in Madison and St. Francois counties will come from a settlement to compensate for natural resources damaged by the historic mining activities of ASARCO. The Missouri Trustee Council includes representatives from the state of Missouri and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The proposals include:
— The “Bone Hole” area in St. Francois County. MDNR has requested $250,000 from the Trustee Council to restore wildlife habitat at the Bone Hole, which is part of a 40-acre county park in St. Francois County. The Department of Natural Resources was also awarded $812,286 by EPA to remove lead-contaminated soil and mine waste from the site, in addition to capping and stabilizing mine waste near Owl Creek.
— The city of Park Hills in St. Francois County. DNR has requested $200,000 from the Trustee Council for Flat River Creek stream bank and riparian corridor restoration projects. EPA recently completed remedial actions on a large section of the Flat River Creek floodplain at Haney Park, but additional restoration of riparian natural resources and measures to address bank erosion is necessary. This project will address the riparian natural resources and pre-existing bank erosion issues. In addition, Missouri State Parks recently awarded $74,394 to the city of Park Hills for park improvements at Haney Park.
— The former Little St. Francois River chat pile in Madison County. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has requested $98,350 from the Trustee Council to restore native vegetation at the site of the former mine waste pile south of Fredericktown City Lake. Lead contaminated materials have been removed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, allowing for ecological restoration of the former mine waste site to include wildlife habitat.
— The Logtown Branch and Slime Creek tributaries of the Little St. Francois River in Madison County. MDNR has requested $500,000 from the Trustee Council to restore stream bank, riparian corridor and floodplain areas of Logtown Branch and Slime Creek. Restoration will be conducted in the watershed where EPA will be addressing lead contamination from former mining operations. This portion of the Madison County Mines Superfund Site has been identified by EPA as a significant contributing source of mining waste to the Little St. Francois River and Fredericktown City Lake.
Combined, funding for the four projects is $1,935,030. Last month, the governor announced that an additional $250,000 in ASARCO settlement funding has been allocated to southeast Missouri Soil and Water Districts to assist landowners with conservation projects to reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.
“We’re committed to addressing the legacy of lead and to improving the health and well-being of our communities — and by working with our local and federal partners, we are delivering on that commitment,” Gov. Nixon said. “I look forward to continuing to work diligently with local leaders to identify additional projects.”
In addition to the proposals submitted to the Missouri Trustee Council, Gov. Nixon said Tuesday that Missouri State Parks is seeking to develop a hiking trail to the summit of Pilot Knob Mountain in Iron County. If approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a public parking lot and trailhead will be built at Fort Davidson State Historic Site, along with trail improvements and interpretive features along the trail to the summit.
“The ASARCO settlement means we can address the legacy of lead in specific and meaningful ways and improving the health and well-being of our communities…” — Gov. Jay Nixon
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com