We can haul it off and cover it up. But it’s there, under the surface for all time. Lead. It’s the unfortunate legacy we live with today. While we remain proud of our mining heritage and those who worked those mines, we and generations after us remain the victims of a once-unregulated industry.
A story by reporter Wally Kennedy reports that chunks of lead — some of it the size of tennis balls — have turned up in residential yards that were disturbed two years ago by the May 2011 tornado.
Of the 1,091 yards sampled for lead in Joplin’s disaster zone following the May 22, 2011, tornado, 426 require the excavation of lead-contaminated soil. As of last week, 182 lead-contaminated properties had been excavated, according to Leslie Heitkamp, city cleanup coordinator.
Most of the contamination has been found in bands along both sides of South Main Street, where mining took place more than 100 years ago.
This is now the second time that the city is coping with contamination left from a lead smelter in northwest Joplin.
Lead poisoning, of course, affects everyone’s health, but it is especially damaging to the health of our children. Excavation and yard remediation has been effective in the past in bringing down harmful levels in children who have been tested, and it’s what we have to continue doing today.
Last week, The Joplin Globe reported about applications for funding for projects that will help restore damaged land and groundwater resources. The funding will come from Asarco, a mining company that operating in the region in the 1900s.
Those projects range from a wetlands project and wildlife habitat north of Webb City to a proposal that would improve or protect riparian migratory bird habitat. The money from the mining settlement needs to be awarded and spent here, where the damage first started more than 100 years ago.
We can’t undo our past, but we must make sure that the legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren is a better one.
We would urge you to contact your legislator and ask them for their help in seeing that these proposals made to various levels of state and federal government are approved.
Copyright The Joplin Globe. Reprinted with permission.