During its meeting Monday, the Madison County Commission continued to oppose possible divergence of ASARCO compensation for lead remediation in the historic mining county.
Following the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission’s Sept. 28 meeting; Deputy Director David Grimes and Leslie Seabaugh asked for public comment to help prevent this loss of funds.
The current deadline for public comment has been extended, according to an Oct. 2 statement from Missouri Department of Natural Resources Director Sara Parker Pauley.
“The public comment period has been extended for ten days and will now end on Oct. 15 at 5 p.m.,” Pauley outlined.
The original dates set by the Missouri Trustee Council for public comment were between Sept. 4 and Oct. 5 regarding proposed natural resource restoration projects.
A few days prior to the extension, information from Senator Gary Romine’s office staff reviewed conversations between the Southeast Regional Planning Commission and the Governor’s office, in late Sept. These conversations highlighted the Oregon County park proposal being a far removed location from the damaged historic mining areas.
Dan Hutton who is the Legislative Director and Madison County Presiding Commissioner Bob Mooney agree the public needs to provide more input in order to keep this money closer to home.
The original budget for Madison County included $1.6 million in ASARCO funds. Since the proposal came out, the county’s budget share was reduced to $500,000.
These funds were purportedly relevant to lead mining damages, as Madison County is named in the ASARCO settlement. The city of Fredericktown intended to pursue remediation of Fredericktown City Lake, the sole source of drinking water for its residents.
A proposal via Missouri Department of Natural Resources is to purchase a large tract (2,463 acres) of land outside the Southeast Lead Mining District ( SEMOLMD) on the Eleven Point River in Oregon County. The proposal was given an initial go-ahead on Sept. 23.
The funds in question have been awarded as the result of a previous litigation to those counties within SEMOLMD encompassing Iron, Madison, and St. Francois Counties. Funds are to be utilized for the removal of lead from areas which were contaminated by historic mining.
At their Sept. 8 meeting, Mike Alesandrini, ADECOM senior consultant, updated the St. Francois County Commissioners on the SEMOLMD restoration compensation project after attending the Missouri Trustee Council Meeting, Sept. 2 at Johnson Shut-Ins.
Alesandrini said he asked at the meeting if it was possible the entire $50 million of restoration funds could be spent in Oregon County.
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After some hesitation the answer was, “Well, yes it could,” he said.
At their Sept. 28 meeting, the Madison County Commissioners signed a resolution strongly opposing the movement of ASARCO settlement money out of damaged resource areas such as Madison County to other more ‘scenic parts’ of the state.
The resolution states the history of mining in the county dates to around 1715 during the French Colonial Period. As a result, Madison County qualifies under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act as a Superfund site.
Due to the negative environmental and health impact from mining waste materials, Madison County is entitled to funding of a comprehensive remediation project. This funding has already been awarded to qualifying Missouri counties in the SEMOLMD. Since Madison County falls within this district, the commissioners conclude the entirety of the $1.6 million damages award remain solely in the trust of its constituents.
The commissioners acted swiftly on information from resident and local historian John Bennett about the possible redirection of these ASARCO funds. Bennett shared with the commission information from a recent Department of Natural Resources meeting. He was informed funds allocated to cities and towns within the Big River Watershed may instead go to park construction in Oregon County.
Madison County Health Department Administrator Becky Hunt announced at the Sept. 28 commission meeting the receipt of an EPA grant. The $60,000 award is entitled: Madison County Superfund Little Saint Francis River Watershed Grant, and is for the period from Sept. 16, 2015 to Aug. 14, 2018.
When the St. Francois County Commission held its Sept. 29 meeting, Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher announced he opposed the plan to move ASARCO funds from the Big River Watershed area.
St. Francois County Commissioners Tim Mullins and Gay Wilkinson encouraged county residents to contact the appropriate parties regarding the proposed plan. During the Sept. 29 meeting, St. Francois County Commissioners had approved a resolution strongly opposing removing funds from their county, as well. The resolution states the county commission “had planned to use some of the $2,400,000 to $50,000,000 stabilizing the banks along the impaired waters of the Big River” to prevent floods and improve habitat, as well as protect and restore “areas prone to lead tailing contamination through flooding.” The resolution further states Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposal to purchase the land “would potentially violate several sections of Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations in spirit, if not in the letter of the law, by removing use of the funds from the people in or near the contaminated area.”
The Missouri Trustee Council is comprised of the State of Missouri, U.S. Department of Interior, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture acting on behalf of the public as trustees for natural resources and their associated resources propose to fund several compensatory restoration projects in the SEMOLMD.
The trustees held a meeting to discuss the proposed land purchase with diverted ASARCO funds at Johnson Shut-Ins, Sept. 2.
During the Oct. 5 meeting of the Madison County Commission meeting commissioners agreed that they were given very little notice of the same trustee’s meeting.
Missouri residents may contact the following officials by email: Eric Gramlich, CERCLA/OPA NRDAR section chief of Missouri DNR, at firstname.lastname@example.org; John Webber, Environmental Contaminants specialist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at email@example.com; and Becky Bryan, Mark Twain National Forest remediation coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.