Publication Date 11/20/2010
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said today that it will remove and replace soil at 11 schools and 16 child-care and Head Start centers in St. Francois County due to elevated levels of toxic lead in the soil.
The removal is expected to protect more than 5,300 children from unnecessary and potentially harmful exposure to lead, the EPA said. Children are typically exposed to lead by playing in contaminated soil and putting dirty fingers in their mouths.
Lead is a neurotoxin that interrupts normal brain development and has been linked to behavioral problems and learning disabilities in children. Adults can tolerate higher lead levels than children but also can suffer health problems.
The estimated cost of the clean up will be at least $6 million, the EPA said. That figure does not include additional costs of soil disposal and new soil replacement.
The schools and child centers are expected to remain open until the EPA can remove the contaminated soil.
Some of the area that will be cleaned up was used for disposal of lead mine tailings by the Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. from 1929 to 1958, the EPA said. That 110-square-mile area is frequently referred to as the “Old Lead Belt” and contains six large areas of mine waste.
A public meeting on the testing results and the soil removal plan is slated for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 29, at the Mineral Area College, North College Center rooms A and B, 5720 Flat River Road in Park Hills.