A Missouri lead producer has agreed to pay about $65 million to settle environmental violations at several of its sites in southeast Missouri, officials announced Friday.
Suburban St. Louis-based Doe Run Resources will use the money to clean up violations at 10 of its lead facilities in southeast Missouri. The amount also includes a $7 million fine for the violations. The regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency said $3.5 million of the $7 million fine will go to the federal government, and the remainder will go to Missouri.
Doe Run also will close its lead smelter in Herculaneum by Dec. 31, 2013, according to the agreement.
The EPA has cited Doe Run over three decades for air emissions, elevated lead levels in children's blood, elevated lead levels in yards and lead dust in homes. Doe Run has bought out 130 residential properties near its Herculaneum smelter since 2002.
EPA regional administrator Karl Brooks said residents around the Doe Run sites have been exposed to "one of the most harmful forms of air and water pollution."
"Lead's toll on their lives and health has been great, which is why the outcome of this enforcement action is so important," Brooks said in a release.
The EPA said the company had violated several federal and state laws at its facilities, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Emergency Planning and Right-to-Know Act and the Missouri Air Conservation Law.
"Four decades after taking the first steps to remove lead from gasoline, EPA has reached this settlement to keep significant amounts of lead from polluting Missouri's air, land and water," Brooks said in a release.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster called the settlement a "big win" for residents of southeast Missouri.
"Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of high levels of lead, and this settlement ensures that Doe Run will take responsible actions to clean up the environment and protect Missourians from dangerous pollution," Koster said in a release.
Jerry Pyatt, Doe Run's chief operating officer, called the settlement a "landmark agreement."
He said it will "support the sustainability of our company as well as the economic benefit it will provide to the state of Missouri and the U.S. economy."
Doe Run is considering building a new facility where "air emissions are effectively eliminated," Pyatt said. He said a feasibility study is under way to determine if the company can replace the process at Herculaneum with the new process.
"Herculaneum is the only remaining primary lead smelter in the United States, so with its closure at the end of 2013, if Doe Run doesn't build a new facility with the new technology, the U.S. will be totally dependent on other countries, primarily china, for its primary lead metal," he said.