Lead Giant to Shut Missouri Smelter Early, Pay $72 Million for Violations

Lead Giant to Shut Missouri Smelter Early, Pay $72 Million for Violations

KANSAS CITY, Kansas, October 12, 2010 (ENS) – Doe Run Resources Corp. of St. Louis, North America’s largest lead producer, will spend $65 million to correct violations of several environmental laws at 10 of its lead mining, milling and smelting facilities in southeast Missouri, federal and state agencies announced Friday.

As part of the settlement, Doe Run will spend an additional $7 million to cover a civil penalty for violating a host of federal environmental laws: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Emergency Planning and Right-to-Know Act, and the Superfund law, and three Missouri laws: the Air Conservation Law, Clean Water Law and Hazardous Waste Management Law.

The penalty will be paid by Doe Run in a $3.5 million payment to the United States and a $1.5 million payment to the state of Missouri, with an additional $1 million plus interest to be paid to the state each year for the next two years.

“For more than a century, families in Missouri’s lead districts have endured one of the most harmful forms of air and water pollution,” said U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks. “Lead’s toll on their lives and health has been great, which is why the outcome of this enforcement action is so important.”

“We all share common goals for vibrant communities, high-paying local jobs and improved environmental performance,” said Bruce Neil, president and chief executive officer of the Doe Run Company. “The agreement enables the company to address historical and more recent environmental issues, while still providing jobs for our employees, strategic metal to our customers and the $1 billion economic benefit we provide to the region.”

Doe Run’s lead smelter at Herculaneum, Missouri (Photo courtesy Doe Run)

The Doe Run smelter on the banks of the Mississippi River in Herculaneum, Missouri converts millions of tons of ore into more than 125,000 tons of nearly pure commercial-grade lead every year. In operation since 1982, this is both the nation’s largest primary lead smelter and its largest point source for lead emissions, with just over 59 tons of lead released to the air in 2005, according to the National Emissions Inventory of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But at the end of 2013 Doe Run will shut down its lead smelter at Herculaneum, a town of about 4,000 residents.

Company officials made a business decision to shutter the smelter on December 31, 2013 instead of in 2016 as required by state regulation for sulfur dioxide emissions and instead of installing pollution control technologies needed to reduce sulfur dioxide and lead emissions as required by the federal Clean Air Act.

“For more than a year, we’ve been working with the community of Herculaneum toward repurposing portions of our site in Herculaneum,” said Neil. “We’ve spent nearly $400,000 toward two port feasibility studies, donated land on which a new bridge is being built to access the area, and we believe the location could be an ideal site for a Jefferson County port. A port could provide an estimated 2,000 jobs to the region.”

The company will provide an initial $8.14 million in financial assurance to guarantee cleanup work at the Herculaneum facility.

Closing the Herculaneum smelter is expected to result in benefits to public health and the environment by annually reducing air emissions of at least 101,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 42,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 30 tons of lead, 23 tons of particulate matter, 22 tons of carbon monoxide, 13.5 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 2.5 tons of volatile organic chemicals, according to the U.S. EPA.

The EPA said it expects these reductions to result in “significant health and environmental benefits to the Herculaneum and St. Louis areas,” which are currently exceeding federal air standards for lead, ozone and particulate matter.

“Four decades after taking the first steps to remove lead from gasoline, EPA has reached this settlement to keep significant amounts of lead from polluting Missouri’s air, land and water. This is a historic milestone, and it could not have happened without the effective, energetic cooperation of Missouri’s governor, attorney general and Department of Natural Resources.”

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said, “This settlement represents a big win for families who live in Southeast Missouri. Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of high levels of lead, and this settlement ensures that Doe Run will take responsible actions to clean up the environment and protect Missourians from dangerous pollution.”

The settlement also requires Doe Run to establish financial assurance trust funds, at an estimated cost of $28 million to $33 million, for the cleanup of Herculaneum and six active or former mining and milling facilities: Brushy Creek, Buick, Fletcher, Sweetwater, Viburnum and West Fork.

This commitment ensures that financing will be available to fund the cleanup of the smelter property and the six mining and milling sites whenever they are eventually closed.

Doe Run will also take steps to finalize and come into compliance with more stringent Clean Water Act permits at 10 of its facilities, including Herculaneum, Glover, Buick Mill, Brushy Creek, Fletcher, Sweetwater, Viburnum, West Fork, Mine #35 (Casteel), and Buick Resource Recycling,

The company will spend an estimated $5.8 million on stream mitigation activities along 8.5 miles of Bee Fork Creek, an impaired waterway near Doe Run’s Fletcher mine and mill facility.

The company will also spend $2 million on community-based mitigation projects to reduce pollution from other sources in southeastern Missouri.

At least $1.1 million of this amount will be spent on diesel engine retrofits, school science lab clean outs, school energy efficiency projects and installations of heat pumps.

Other projects, such as the purchase of sulfur dioxide allowances, wastewater infrastructure projects for the city of Herculaneum, or the development and improvement of environmental management systems at Doe Run’s facilities may also be included.

In addition to the consent decree, the EPA is issuing for public comment two administrative orders.

The first administrative order requires Doe Run to sample residential properties within 1.5 miles of the Herculaneum smelter, and clean up all residential properties with lead soil concentrations of 400 parts per million or higher within that zone.

The order also requires Doe Run to conduct a final round of soil sampling and residential property cleanups in Herculaneum after the smelter is shut down.

The public is also invited to comment on a modified May 2007 administrative order addressing issues related to the transportation of lead-bearing materials between Doe Run facilities.

The modified order requires Doe Run to spend an estimated $3.2 million to improve the washing and inspection of its trucks, conduct additional sampling of soil from residential properties along the haul routes, provide independent auditing of its washing and inspection activities, and conduct a study to assess and improve its transportation and handling operations.

The civil judicial consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by a court before it becomes final. Each of the two administrative orders is subject to similar but separate 30-day public comment periods before they become final.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.

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