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Farmington Republicans speak out against remediation attempts

  

FARMINGTON, Mo. – Within the next 60 days, Sen. Gary Romine (R-Farmington) says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will making a decision that will greatly impact St. Francois County.

Romine
Romine

“They want to remediate 4,000 yards,” said the senator, shaking his head. “This would disrupt the county.”

When Romine says yards, it isn’t the common measurement of about 3 feet used in football. He means a residential property.

To remediate a yard, the EPA would come in – as they have in the past – and strip the top soil, treat what they can, and replace it. The remediation brings many trucks, which Rep. Linda Black, R-Farmington, says would be very hard on the infrastructure of St. Francois County.

“How do you remediate what is naturally occurring?” asked Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The area is part of the Lead Belt region of Missouri, which was once the leading exporter of lead in the world. Today, there are no lead smelters in the country due to increased regulations on lead processing.

“This is the area that is home to Leadington, Leadwood,” Black said. “It’s an area rich in the mining culture.”

Romine told The Missouri Times that there have been 8 cases of lead poisoning found by the EPA in the county, which is substantially lower than parts of Kansas City and St. Louis.

Black
Black

Black used to teach in the area before entering into office. As a teacher, she did not see lower IQ rates in children, or higher rates of learning disabilities. Residents enjoy a largely outdoor lifestyle, including fishing in areas downriver from what has been declared Superfund sites by the EPA.

“That is very much the mentality here,’ Black said. “’We’ve lived here our entire lives – what’s wrong with it?’ They look around and they don’t see anything wrong.”

Romine, Black, and Engler believe the EPA is moving too quickly in a decision that they believe would greatly disrupt the local economy while damaging basic infrastructure.

“There needs to be a third-party testing,” said Black. “The EPA has done their testing and Doe Run has done theirs and the results are completely different.”

Romine attempted to testify before the EPA, but he said, “you’d have think I shot somebody.”

Romine joins Rep. Tim Romole, R-Excello, in attempting to be a voice for their respective regions with the EPA. Remole sat through hours of EPA testimony with concerns for the Clean Air Act and the coal plant in his district and has similar concerns.

“The EPA doesn’t know what they’re doing,” Remole said. “But, as a member of the Energy and Utilities Committee, I’m interested in what we can do for other parts of this state. I understand what it’s like to have the EPA focused on you.”

Black shared that because of several incidents, testing for lead can provide very inconsistent results.

“You can test soil in one part of a yard and not 4 feet away get a completely different result,” Black said. “There needs to be a third-party to test these yards before an entire community is disrupted.”

Engler
Engler

Doe Run has purchased private properties that have increased levels of lead beyond naturally occurring levels and paid for necessary remediation efforts out of the company checkbook.

“Doe Run has done an excellent and responsible job in the area,” Black said. “If there was a problem, they have gone above and beyond to fix it.”

However, Romine hopes that the end of the lead industry is not in sight. He shared that a new type of smelter may be coming to the area which utilizes technology that eliminates the issues of former smelters in the area by utilizing special plates that attract the lead.

Less than 50 years ago, lead smelters employed hundreds in the area. The smelters closing caused hundreds of jobs to be lost, but Romine believes that the new technology, combined with an increased demand, could bring some jobs back.

“With electric cars, there will be increased demand for lead,” said Romine.

At the end of the day, the area does not deny that lead can be a problem, but believes that the Lead Belt does not have the same problems as areas that previously used lead paint.

“Education is important,” Black said. “Just like anywhere, don’t eat the dirt.”

 

Featured image: chat dump in St. Francois County, 1952