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Three sites in Washington County to be considered for Superfund

By AP/KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday proposed three sites in Missouri's Old Lead Belt for inclusion on the national Superfund cleanup list.

The three are in eastern Missouri's Washington County in its lead district at Old Mines, Potosi and Richwoods near the eastern Ozark Mountains.

The EPA proposes to put the sites on Superfund's National Priorities List of the nation's most complex and contaminated areas for cleanup.

The designation triggers 60 days of public comment, at which point the state could object to federal intervention. But Missouri has already agreed to it, and barring any other objection, the sites could be placed on the NPL by spring, said Ken Buchholz, regional EPA branch chief in the Superfund division.

Typically, citizens or states refer cases to the EPA for inclusion on the list.

The EPA has been assessing 1,200 lead mining and smelting sites in Missouri for the last decade, and identifying the worst for cleanup, Buchholz said.

Mining sites throughout Madison County and a lead tailings pile near the town of Annapolis both in southeast Missouri were placed on Superfund's National Priorities List in recent years and are being cleaned up.

The three Washington County sites proposed Wednesday are contaminated with arsenic, barium, cadmium, and lead from historical mining practices in southeast Missouri, according to the EPA Web site.

Soil and ground water are contaminated at the 20-square-mile Old Mines site in northeast Washington County.

The area, including 48 residential yards, has elevated levels of lead from mine tailings and mineral processing. More than 117 private residential wells are contaminated with unacceptable levels of lead.

Residents have been issued bottled water, and 40 contaminated yards have been excavated.

Soil and ground water in the 40-square-mile Potosi site in east-central Washington County are similarly contaminated.

More than 150 residential properties and 138 private residential wells are contaminated with unsafe levels of lead.

Residents are receiving bottled water, and 58 contaminated yards have been excavated.

Soil, sediment, and ground and surface water are contaminated in the 45-square-mile Richwoods site in northeast Washington County.

Soil at 33 residential properties are contaminated with heavy metal; 56 wells are contaminated with lead.

Elevated levels of heavy metals were found last year in water samples from three creeks that eventually drain to either the Meramec River or Big River.

Bottled water is being provided to 52 homes around Richwoods while 14 residential yards and part of a school's grounds has been excavated.

Washington County is part of Missouri's Old Lead Belt, which has been mined for centuries and at one time provided 80% of the lead produced in the U.S.

Since the federal Superfund program started in the early 1980s, more than 1,500 sites have been listed on the NPL. More than 300 have been cleaned up, and another 1,000 are in the process of being cleaned up. Cleanup of ground water contamination can take up to 20 years.

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