Contaminated soil to be removed from St. Joe State Park

Contaminated soil to be removed from St. Joe State Park

Source: http://www.dailyjournalonline.com, March 26, 2011
By: Paula Barr

Lead-contaminated soil will be removed in St. Joe Park’s off-road vehicle (ORV) riding areas and other sections of the park as part of a new agreement among the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The Doe Run Resources Corporation and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Division of State Parks.

In an administrative settlement agreement and order of consent for removal action announced Friday, Doe Run and DNR have a 60-day-period to file a draft work plan to EPA that outlines the steps they will take to complete the removal and to replace the soil with clean dirt.

“We’re pleased to have an agreement in place that identifies how and where work will take place in St. Joe State Park,” said Aaron Miller, The Doe Run’s vice president of environmental affairs. “The park is one of Missouri’s popular recreation parks, and we’ve made several improvements to the park over the years. Doe Run, along with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), submitted an engineering study in 2009 detailing plans to do additional work, and we’re pleased the agreement is signed.” Doe Run and the MDNR Division of State Parks and Historic Preservation have a long history of working together to improve St. Joe State Park. We’re working together towards finalizing detailed plans in the next few weeks, and we’re eager to get the joint work under way.”

The order calls for removal of contaminated soil from a 1,240-acre portion of the 8,238-acre park as well as land at the Missouri Mines Historic site and an adjacent section of the Shaw Branch floodplain in St. Francois County. The agreement was filed Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas.

EPA spokesman Chris Whitley said the agency will review the proposal after it is submitted. The timeline for the removal will depend on that plan.

“We have to see what they send us,” Whitley said. “We’ll either accept it or reject it. We’ll take it step by step after that.”

The proposal also will establish a closure and reopening schedule for parts of the park during remediation. The DNR hopes to begin work this summer, spokesman Renee Bungart said.

“The department does not intend to close St. Joe State park during this process,” she added. “There might be some areas of the off-road area that are closed during construction, but it will be planned to minimize the impact to the public.’

During traditional high-use times, construction will focus on other areas of the park.

In addition to the ORV area, the park includes areas for recreation including swimming and fishing lakes, horseback and bicycle and hiking trails, picnic and camping area.

Soil samples collected during recent inspections contained up to 20,000 parts per million of lead in part of the park. In 2008, tailing samples in the ORV riding areas showed lead concentrations from 96 to 1,014 mg/kg. Those levels are considered a health risk especially for children age 7 and younger who use the park. Young children are considered more sensitive to the toxic effect of lead than older children or adults.

Lead also has been found at elevated levels in sediment, surface water, and aquatic life adjacent to the site in the Shaw Branch of Flat River, a tributary of Big River.

The proposed work plan will address remediation for all ORV trails that are contaminated with 600 mg/kg or more of lead. Those trails must be covered with a minimum of 12 inches of clean soil, rock, or a mixture of both.

All steep slopes will be regraded and stabilized with rock to prevent erosion. Vegetation will be established or augmented to reduce exposure to the public and minimize erosion.

The sediment and surface water will be addressed by removing creekside lead tailings deposits, constructing stormwater retention structures to help reduce the movement of sediment, regarding to stabilize steep slopes, and improving drainage channels that cross the site.

After the remediation, the park must use administrative controls to prevent public access to vegetated areas, as well as ongoing monitoring to ensure the remedy remains protective.

“This removal action will make one of Missouri’s greatest state parks, particularly its popular off-road riding trails, a safer place for hundreds of thousands of visitors to enjoy each year,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. “Remedial work in the park and the adjacent Shaw Branch floodplain will also significantly reduce the amount of harmful lead released into the environment by the movement of wind and water.”

EPA estimates that the removal action will cost about $7 million and take approximately 18 months to complete, once it begins, Whitley noted.

Nearly all of the cleanup costs will be covered by funds from a special account that was established in 2009 as part of the $1.79 billion bankruptcy settlement involving the American Smelting and Refining Company LLC (ASARCO). A $7.7 million special account was specifically set aside for cleanup of the Federal Tailings Pile Superfund Site, which includes St. Joe State Park.

As a result of the ASARCO settlement, the largest environmental bankruptcy case in U.S. history, special accounts were established to pay for past and future cleanup costs incurred by federal and state agencies at more than 80 Superfund sites contaminated by mining operations in Missouri and 18 other states.

St. Joe Park was a gift from the St. Joe Minerals Corporation in 1976. St. Joe Minerals Corporation, which changed its name to Doe Run Resources Corporation in 1994, conducted lead mining and milling operations in the vicinity from approximately 1923 to 1972.

Soil at the site are extensively contaminated with toxic lead and lead compounds from mining wastes that accumulated over several decades.

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