For Immediate Release - April 2, 2002:
Contact: Carla Klein, Ozark Chapter Director, Sierra Club
Doe Run Cleaning Up Its Mess?
For over 100 years Doe Runís lead smelter at Herculaneum has been releasing lead and other toxins into the environment and endangering the residents. The Doe Run Company has a long history of violations of environmental, public health and worker safety laws. Despite its history of being the worst polluter in the state, Doe Run has been allowed to operate and expand its operations for 29 years. The company continues to receive Notices of Violation from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and has been in non-compliance with Clean Air Laws.
According to published statements by Stephen Mahfood, Director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, "the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) determined that the lead contamination in Herculaneum poses a clear and present risk to public health and an imminent and substantial endangerment to the citizens, especially to young children and pregnant women."
Lead poisoning can cause reduced intelligence and developmental problems in children, and is indicated in a variety of behavioral problems. Lead has turned up in soils, schools, streets and in other places throughout town, sometimes at dangerously high levels. In fact the road to and from the smelter has lead at levels up to 300,000 parts per million and cadmium in levels up to 598 parts per million. Anything over 400 parts per million of lead and .02 parts per million of cadmium are considered unsafe!
The percentage of children with elevated lead levels in the City of Herculaneum is truly frightening. Fifty two percent of the children within a half-mile radius of Doe Run Company's smelter have elevated blood-lead levels. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) 45% of the children tested in the City of Herculaneum have dangerously high-elevated blood levels "significantly higher than the national prevalence rate of 7.6% and the Missouri prevalence rate of 8%". Consequently areas near the smelter have been classified as an "urgent hazard."
Recently Doe Run has offered to buy out 26 families who have children under six that live near the smelter. The plan also calls for an additional 134 houses in the surrounding area to be purchased over the next two years. All of the designated areas contain children under six who have been exposed to lead and other chemicals that have been released from the nearby smelter.
The Sierra Club feels this buyout plan is inadequate. All citizens living within one mile of the smelter should be given the option to sell their homes and relocate immediately. The Doe Run Companyís plan sets up arbitrary boundaries to determine where people are most at risk. Can you imagine the mental anguish of being put in this situation? Health officials have declared your city an "urgent hazard"! Your children are being poisoned, and your city will be selectively evacuated! You, however, happen to live across the street from the designated area. So, even though your child is under the age of six, you will have to stay and continue to put your child at risk.
Registered nurse Maria DeBarthe who has worked with women, children and
infants for over thirty years stated, "The dangers of lead poisoning are
well documented. Itís bad for the environment and dangerous for the
children. There are laws meant to protect children from situations such as
these. Doe Run should not be exempt from laws meant to protect public
The Sierra Club agrees. The Doe Run Company has a long history of blatant disregard for the health and safety of the areaís citizens and the environment. The company has purchased 80 homes over the past five years, which is a strong indication that they have known all along the dangers they have been exposing citizens to. The conclusions of the blood level data by the ATSDR and the DHSS state "exposures have occurred, are occurring, and are likely to occur in the future." The Sierra Club believes a complete buyout for the area residents is the only way to protect the areaís children and their families.
Doe Run should be held responsible for knowingly endangering area residents. The agreement that Doe Run and the State of Missouri hammered out in a marathon six hour session represents a good beginning, but is wholly inadequate as a final solution for Herculaneumís woes.