St. Louis-based Doe Run Resources Corp., the nation's largest lead producer, will pay a $7 million civil penalty and spend about $65 million more to resolve alleged violations of federal pollution laws at the company's facilities in Missouri, U.S. EPA and the Justice Department announced Friday.
The settlement, which was filed in federal court in St. Louis, will require the company to commit an estimated $28 million to $33 million for cleanup in Herculaneum, Mo., and other areas affected by 10 of the company's lead mining, milling and smelting facilities. By the end of 2013, Doe Run plans to shut down its Herculaneum lead smelter, which releases 30 tons of lead into the air each year.
The town, as with much of the area around St. Louis, continues to fall short of federal standards for lead pollution in the air. Along with the settlement, EPA has also proposed an order that would require Doe Run to take soil samples at homes within 1.5 miles of the smelter and clean up any properties with a certain level of lead contamination.
Exposure to the heavy metal is known to cause nervous system damage and developmental problems in children, said Cynthia Giles, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance.
"For years families with children near Doe Run's facilities have been exposed to unacceptable levels of lead, one of the most dangerous neurotoxins in the environment," Giles said in a statement Friday. "Today's settlement requires Doe Run to take aggressive actions to clean up their act and work to ensure that families living near the company's facilities are protected from lead poisoning and other harmful pollution."
In addition to Missouri state law, Doe Run was accused of violating the federal Clean Air Act; Clean Water Act; Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act; and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, better known as Superfund.
The company recently led a legal challenge to EPA's revision of the national air quality standard for lead, which was changed in 2008 for the first time in 30 years. The new standard of 0.15 micrograms of lead per cubic meter is 10 times stricter than the previous limit.
Though Doe Run argued that the limit was stricter than required to protect public health, a panel of federal judges unanimously sided with EPA in May. The new standard was acceptable because the Clean Air Act allows for the protection of sensitive groups such as children, the court's decision said (Greenwire, June 16).
The new agreement with federal officials "enables the company to address historical and more recent environmental issues, while still providing jobs for our employees, strategic metal to our customers and the $1 billion economic benefit we provide to the region," said Bruce Neil, the company's president and CEO, in a statement.
Doe Run has developed new technology that will allow the company to produce finished lead metal while releasing 99 percent less air pollution, Neil said, and the company is also working to overhaul its exploration methods.
"These new developments, along with the plan to address past issues, demonstrate our commitment to being a viable and responsible business," he said.
Click here to read the settlement.