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Lead

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha talked with Don Marsh about her book, “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis Resistance and Hope in an American City” at the St. Louis County Library on June 28.
St. Louis

In 2014, the state of Michigan switched the city of Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. After the switch residents began complaining about the water but government officials claimed it was safe to drink.

Taking the government at its word, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at the city’s public hospital, continued to encourage parents and children to drink the water. However, the water wasn’t safe and it was contaminated with lead, something she discovered totally by accident.

A map that indicates the location of the Old American Zinc Plant Superfund site in Fairmont City, Ill.
Mapbox, OpenStreetMap

The Environmental Protection Agency plans this month to start removing toxic waste from 50 residential yards near a Metro East Superfund site.

The Old American Zinc Plant, which discontinued operations in 1967, contaminated hundreds of properties with high levels of lead, arsenic, zinc and other heavy metals that are known to cause cancer and a variety of diseases. The site is located in Fairmont City, next to Cahokia Mounds.

Lead blocks produced by the Doe Run Company.
The Doe Run Company

In a settlement announced Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Missouri ordered metal and mining company Doe Run Resources Corporation to clean up lead contamination in more than 4,000 residential properties in St. Francois County.

The work is estimated to cost a total of $111 million. Of that, the Environmental Protection Agency will contribute about $31 million. The company will remove lead contamination in the Big River Mine Tailings Superfund Site, an area added to the EPA's National Priorities List in 1992. It's part of Missouri's "Old Lead Belt," one of the largest lead mining districts in the world.

A nursing student practices taking a blood sample for a lead test on a volunteer in Jennings.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

When a child has an elevated amount of lead in their blood, it’s often up to Tammi Holmes to find the source.

Once, it was a packet of turmeric, brought home after an international trip. Another time, it was the metal letter on an apartment door, traced by a little girl every day as she learned the alphabet.

“We’re missing a lot of kids,” Holmes told a group of educators during a free-testing day at the Gary Gore Elementary School in Jennings. "Sometimes people don't think about things like that, until we have that conversation." 

Southeast Missouri State University graduate student Kathy Hixson prepares to draw blood from a male bluebird at the Madison County Mines Superfund Site in Fredericktown, Missouri
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In Fredericktown, Missouri, three women walked towards what looked like a Martian landscape.

An adult female bluebird caught by a Southeast Missouri State University researcher.
Kathy Hixson

It’s been nearly 300 years since lead was first discovered in Missouri.

But the element's important role in the state's economy may come at a price to another natural resources. Scientists are planning to study the health effects of lead on local songbird populations.

The research, conducted by biologists at Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia, will take place in the Southeast Missouri Lead District, which contains the world’s largest deposits of galena, an important source of lead.

An "out of order" sign hangs from the pipes of a water fountain at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Dec. 9, 2016 with the results of the most recent tests — St. Louis Public Schools officials are still working on replacing water pipes, fountains and sinks that tested positive for lead.

Most of the nearly 90 sources have passed most-recent testing, but three fountains and nine sinks have been abandoned. Another eight fountains failed the most recent lead tests, and officials are waiting for results on four other fountains.

An "out of order" sign hangs from the pipes of a water fountain at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

University City School District spokeswoman Pat Washington said Wednesday that after testing every drinking source in every district building, two water fountains at University City High School and one sink each at Brittany Woods Middle School, Flynn Park Elementary Barbara C. Jordan Elementary and the McNair Administration Center have been shut off because they tested higher for lead than the Environmental Protection Agency’s benchmark of 15 parts per billion.

An "out of order" sign hangs from the pipes of a water fountain at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When preliminary tests by St. Louis Public Schools found that dozens of faucets and water fountains contained traces of lead, the district shut them off before the school year began.

District spokesperson Patrick Wallace said that to his knowledge, the schools’ water had not been tested for lead within the past 10 years.

A full survey released Thursday found elevated lead levels in 88 district water fountains and sinks.

An "out of order" sign hangs from the pipes of a water fountain at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis.
File photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated after board meeting with test results — St. Louis Public Schools has found elevated lead levels in 88 district water fountains and sinks, with almost a dozen water sources testing at 10 to 20 times the level requiring correction.

A water fountain at Fanning Middle School in the Tower Grove South neighborhood had the highest lead concentration at 280 parts per billion.

Before it was banned in 1978, lead paint was commonly used in homes. In St. Louis, which is dominated by older housing stock, lead contamination is still prevalent.
Abby Lanes | Flickr

Four employees who work in a Veterans Affairs records office in north St. Louis have tested positive for higher than average levels of lead in their blood, though officials stressed that the measurements still fall within the range that is normal for U.S. adults.  

Before it was banned in 1978, lead paint was commonly used in homes. In St. Louis, which is dominated by older housing stock, lead contamination is still prevalent.
Abby Lanes | Flickr

The lead contamination water crisis in Flint, which has captivated American attention since early this year, has a lot of people asking: Could this happen where I live? On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” several guests joined host Don Marsh to discuss the state of lead remediation in St. Louis and if a water crisis of such a magnitude could occur here.

Before it was banned in 1978, lead paint was commonly used in homes. In St. Louis, which is dominated by older housing stock, lead contamination is still prevalent.
Abby Lanes | Flickr

Inspectors from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are in St. Louis for the next few months, making sure that contractors are following federal lead paint laws. Businesses with employees that do renovation, repair or painting work must ensure they are federally trained and certified. If they're not, companies could be fined up to $37,500 a day for each violation.

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis and St. Louis County will be able to increase efforts to reduce the number of children in the region exposed to lead, thanks to grants donated Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city and county both received 2.5 million dollars from HUD, although $100,000 of the county’s grant is ear-marked for a separate initiative.

According to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, the city’s grant will be primarily used to preemptively make 180 rental units safe from lead.

The Doe Run Company

A lead mining company is heading to trial next month, but this week, they’re hoping to hedge their bet.

The Missouri legislature passed a bill earlier this year that would limit the amount of damages the Doe Run Company would have to pay if a jury found the company guilty of negligence. Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, but Republican lawmakers are aiming for an override this week.

Updated 9/13/13 10:33 AM

Doe Run is the largest lead mining company in the western hemisphere, and they operate in southeast Missouri.

(via Flickr/xpda)

The city of Joplin, Mo. is getting an additional boost in an effort to clean up soil contaminated by lead and cadmium that was blown around by the fatal EF-5 tornado in May 2011.

Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today clean-up methods it will take on a former mining site in Madison County.

The Madison County Mines Superfund site is part of the Old Lead Belt, where the mining of heavy metals began in the 1700s. The nearly 500-square-mile area is contaminated by lead, a highly-toxic metal that can wreak havoc on organs and tissues in the human body.

Morning headlines: Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sep 13, 2012
(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

New report: "vast improvements" at John Cochran VA Medical Center

A new government report says the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis has made "vast improvements" after an earlier report noted problems.

As KBIA's Jacob Fenston reports, for 25 years, a Herculaneum, Mo. smelter didn't meet federal air standards for lead. Now, after decades of battling government regulators and angry parents, Doe Run is leaving town at the end of next year. Check out Fenston's story via the link below.

Doe Run: no new plant to replace Herculaneum lead smelter

Jun 29, 2012

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Doe Run announced today that it will not build a new lead processing plant in Herculaneum.

In 2010, the largest lead producer in North America announced it would close its existing lead smelter in Herculaneum by the end of 2013.

The company had proposed to build a new facility there that would use new technology to reduce emissions of air pollutants including lead and sulfur dioxide.

But now Doe Run says that won’t happen.

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