© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

EPA asks DNR to ensure protection from lead at state park


Park Hills, Mo. – Federal authorities have asked Missouri's Department of Natural Resources to ensure that visitors using an off-road vehicles section of St. Joe State Park are protected from potential lead contamination caused by mine tailings.

The Park Hills Daily Journal reports the request comes as part of a remediation program by the Environmental Protection Agency to address lead contamination in St. Francois County. The park itself is not on the National Priority List but is considered a Superfund site, said Debbie Kring, EPA community involvement coordinator.

DNR chief Doyle Childers said the EPA has no plans to close the park, which sits about 60 miles southwest of St. Louis. About one-quarter of its more than 8,000 acres include mine tailings set aside for off-road vehicles. The tailings are waste material from lead mining and are piled up to 100 feet deep in a former valley.

The ORV area is often crowded on weekends with people on all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and dune buggies. Last weekend, clouds of thick dust rose in the air as users turned circles, did tricks and jumped small hills.

Lead is a known carcinogen. Exposure in children can impair intelligence, slow growth and cause behavioral problems.

In the park, EPA is concerned about the airborne dust and the possibility of visitors tracking tailings out of the park.

"The lead that is present in the mine waste at St. Joe Park as well as in the other sites is bioavailable for people to ingest and cause problems," said Bruce Morrison, Superfund project manager. "We want to prevent that from happening by stabilizing mine waste piles and covering them up so they are no longer washing into watershed and blowing into residential areas."

DNR routinely monitors air for lead in the park, and staff have their blood tested for lead levels each year, said Sandy McCain, a DNR park specialist at St. Joe Park. Neither type of monitoring has identified problem levels of lead.

In a 2003 study conducted by EPA, air monitors were strapped to riders at the state park. It found no cause for concern.

"But this is one more exposure to lead that people are having and potentially taking home," Morrison said.


Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.