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EPA Rules Force Lead Smelter Closure

Lead producer Doe Run is closing its lead smelting plant in Herculaneum, Mo. — the last primary lead smelter in the US — because of EPA regulations, Pollution Engineering reports.

Primary smelters produce lead from mined resources; secondary lead smelters recycle lead from other sources. There are sill several secondary lead smelters, the magazine reports.

Doe Run reached a settlement with the EPA and the state of Missouri in 2010, in which is agreed to discontinue its smelting operations in Herculaneum by the end of 2013, Pollution Engineering reports. The company says it closed the plant because upgrades required to meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations weren’t economically feasible.

Doe Run’s spending on environmental capital investment and operations increased by around 45 percent year-on-year, according to the company’s latest sustainability report published earlier this year. Doe Run’s spending on remediation increased around 40 percent from almost $34 million in 2010 to $47.7 million in 2011, the report shows.

One remediation project is at a former lead mine in Missouri, under a March 2011 order from the EPA. Under the agreement, Doe Run and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks agreed to remove lead contamination at St. Joe State Park, including off-road vehicle riding areas and a former lead milling location now preserved as a museum, as well as an adjacent section of the Shaw Branch floodplain in St. Francois County, Mo. At the time, the EPA estimated that the removal action would cost about $7 million and take about 18 months to complete.

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