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Lead-Contaminated Soils Removed from Three Schools in St. Francois County, Mo.; Sampling Results for Parks Studied

Release Date: 05/16/2011
Contact Information: Chris Whitley, 913-551-7394, whitley.christopher@epa.gov

Environmental News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Kansas City, Kan., May 16, 2011) - Efforts by EPA Region 7 to remove lead-contaminated soils and replace them with clean soils are nearing completion at three schools in St. Francois County, Mo., while risk assessors for the Agency are studying results of soil sampling from 11 public parks in the county to determine next steps for addressing lead contamination at those locations.

Action to remove and replace soils began last week and should be completed, weather permitting, by the end of the week at Jefferson Elementary School, W.L. Johns Early Childhood, and Truman Kindergarten, all in Farmington. Those three facilities – attended by children whose ages put them at greatest risk of health effects from toxic lead exposure – are among several schools in the county where EPA’s recent sampling found elevated levels of lead in soils.

EPA has been actively assessing and removing lead-contaminated soils from schools and child care facilities in the area since August 2010, beginning with Central Middle School in Park Hills. Removal work also began recently at five other area schools, including North County Primary in Bonne Terre; Parkside Elementary in Desloge; and Central Elementary, West Elementary and Special Acres in Park Hills.

In the coming months, 11 additional area schools will be assessed to determine possible needs for soil removal. Those schools include Bismarck Elementary School and Bismarck High School in Bismarck; North County Senior High/Unitec and St. Joseph School in Bonne Terre; North County Middle School and North County Intermediate School in Desloge; St. Joseph Elementary School, St. Paul Lutheran School, Farmington Middle School and Farmington Senior High School in Farmington; and Central High School in Park Hills.

Overall, EPA is addressing its soil removal efforts with highest priority given to schools and facilities attended by the youngest children, and where their potential exposure to lead is greatest.

Meanwhile, EPA risk assessors are reviewing the results of recent tests showing elevated levels of lead in soils at 10 of 11 public parks surveyed in St. Francois County. Those 10 parks tested for lead at levels above 400 parts per million (ppm), EPA’s residential yard screening level.

Parks with elevated lead levels include Bicentennial Park, Bonne Terre City Park, Diamond Drill Park and Lakeview Park, all in Bonne Terre; Desloge City Park in Desloge; and Columbia Park, The Elvin’s Park, Lewis Street Lions Park, Park Hills Veteran’s Park and Seventh Street Park, all in Park Hills. Of the 11 parks EPA sampled, only Miner’s Park in Bonne Terre tested below 400 ppm for lead in soil. A 12th recreational property, a soccer field in Desloge, also tested below 400 ppm for lead in soil. Some additional parks in the area have not yet been assessed by EPA.

Because people generally spend less time in parks and recreational areas than at home, EPA risk assessors will consider a number of factors in determining screening levels for the parks that will likely differ from the 400 ppm residential level. Those factors include the level of lead in a park’s soil, how frequently it is visited, the ages of its visitors, and the types of use it receives. Determining the screening levels is a key step toward enabling EPA to prioritize and customize its responses to lead contamination at the various locations.

Tests showed that certain play areas at six of the parks have soil with lead levels in excess of 800 ppm, which could cause EPA to list them as a higher priority for response action. Those parks include Bonne Terre City Park (1,848 ppm), The Elvin’s Park (1,726 ppm), Lakeview Park (1,708 ppm), Desloge City Park (1,548 ppm), Columbia Park (1,021 ppm), and Seventh Street Park (1,051 ppm).

When the risk assessment process is complete for the parks, EPA could take certain interim steps to limit potential exposure to lead in soils, including installing mulch in certain areas. The Agency took similar interim actions last fall at several area child care and Head Start facilities. To date, EPA has removed the lead-contaminated soil from 16 local child care facilities.

In the meantime, EPA recommends that parents have children under the age of 7 years tested for lead. Children ages 7 and younger are most susceptible to lead’s harmful health effects. Blood lead testing is inexpensive and can be arranged through most doctors’ offices. Children should also be encouraged to practice good hygiene habits, including regular hand washing, especially after playing outside. Parents may also wish to limit children’s playtime in areas where lead is known to exist, and to regularly clean outdoor toys and play equipment.

EPA anticipates scheduling a public meeting in St. Francois County in the coming weeks, at which it intends to share information and answer questions about the recent activities involving soil removal and replacement at the three schools in Farmington, and the determination of risk assessments for the parks.

Those actions are the latest phases of EPA Region 7’s cleanup activity at the Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. Superfund Site. The 110-square-mile site is composed of six large areas of mine waste, as well as surrounding residential and recreational areas. Lead mining and milling has occurred in the area for more than a century.

Over the next two years, EPA will address a crucial phase of the cleanup activity involving the removal of lead-contaminated soil from approximately 300 residential yards in the area.

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Learn more about health risks associated with lead exposure