Doe Run Company’s primary smelter in Herculaneum will be closing by agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency. North America’s leading lead producer also agreed to spend over $65 million to correct violations of environmental law, and an additional $7 million in civil penalties.
Doe Run agreed to a consent decree from the EPA in order to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Act, and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
“The closure was really a result of increasing standards and an aging facility,” said Tammy Stankey, Doe Run’s senior communications liaison.
Lead air emission levels were not the issue from the 100-year-old smelter, but sulfur dioxide levels would have been costly to control.
“It would have been an astronomical amount of money. It wasn’t a close call, the decision to close the smelter,” said Stankey.
The settlement regarding issues at the Herculaneum smelter was also reached, in part, due to the risk of potential litigation, according to Doe Run’s vice president of legal, Mark Wohl.
The closing of the Herculaneum smelter will annually reduce air emissions by at least 101,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 42,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 30 tons of lead, 23 tons of particulate matter, 22 tons of carbon monoxide, 13.5 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 2.5 tons of volatile organic chemicals, according to the EPA.
Doe Run believes that it is lead oxide that comes from lead paint that is actually the risk for people’s health and the environment, Wohl said. He stated that Doe Run has worked to decrease the percent of lead in chat and tailing, and lessen the environmental impact.
“We’ve cleaned up homes and yards beyond EPA requirements. We only found high levels of lead in one yard,” he said.
The EPA settlement requires Doe Run continue to checking yards and homes within one and a half miles of the smelter over the next five years. Wohl stated that routine environmental checks were already company policy.
“We're working hard to do our fair share of remediation work in Missouri, and are committed to working in a responsible manner,” Wohl said in a released statement.
Even after the closing of the Herculaneum facility Doe Run faced potential closure due to costly litigation. HB 650 put in place protections and limitations of compensatory rewards for lead mining companies. It sweepingly passed the House and Senate, only to be overridden by Governor Jay Nixon July 12.
The veto was overridden by the legislature Sept. 11.
"We are pleased that the majority of Missouri's legislators supported a responsible approach that allows companies like ourselves to conduct remediation of former mine sites under approved plans, without fear of unreasonable litigation,” Wohl’s release stated.
Doe Run will continue to invest millions annually in remediation, lead clean up, and environmentally friendly technology, Wohl said.
The EPA has placed limitation on the amount of finished primary lead for the remainder of the 2013 year, before production ceases Dec. 31.