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EPA Receives Funding For Lead Clean-Up In Madison County

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today clean-up methods it will take on a former mining site in Madison County.

The Madison County Mines Superfund site is part of the Old Lead Belt, where the mining of heavy metals began in the 1700s. The nearly 500-square-mile area is contaminated by lead, a highly-toxic metal that can wreak havoc on organs and tissues in the human body.

A press release from the EPA outlines a strategy that includes excavating contaminated soil and sediment and consolidating mine waste into common locations. These sites will be covered with clay, topsoil and vegetation “caps.” A network of wells will be installed to test groundwater.

The EPA will also take steps to control erosion and run-off to stymie the spread of contaminated soil and water.

In addition to physical changes to the land, the EPA will establish a program to monitor the area’s recovery and conduct reviews every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the rehabilitation. The agency will ask property owners to  prevent disturbing the clean-up and recovery.

The Madison County Mines Superfund site has been on the National Priorities List, a list of contaminated sites that pose the most threat to human health and the environment, since 2003.

The clean-up was announced after the largest environmental bankruptcy case in U.S. history settled a week ago. The St. Louis Post- Dispatch reports that the American Smelting and Refining Co. agreed to give $1.79 billion to 19 states for environmental clean-ups. Over $234 million of that will be used in Missouri.

Documents from the EPA show that the agency embarked on a long-term cleanup to remove and replace lead-contaminated soil from 1,100 residential properties in Madison County in 2008. The project halted in late 2010 when funding ran out.

Efforts to remove lead-contaminated soil and educating residents in the county have decreased the percent of children with dangerous blood-lead levels from 16 percent in 1999 to 1 percent in 2010, according to the EPA.

Follow Tina Eaton on Twitter: @KristinaEaton