Missouri cleaning up land tainted with lead

Monday, May 7, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:18 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

OLD MINES — Last fall, a Washington County couple learned that soil in their yard was contaminated with lead and that their 3-year-old had lead poisoning.

Federal regulators ordered the tainted dirt dug up and hauled away.

Since 2005, hundreds of families across rural Washington County in eastern Missouri have learned that they were exposed to contaminated soil or water because of mining that once took place.

Throughout the state, more than 9,000 sites in 38 counties have been identified as places where lead and other minerals were found and often mined. State and federal regulators now are trying to determine how many more within Missouri will require further cleanup.

In Washington County alone, federal regulators plan to spend up to $8.5 million on cleanup. So far, 213 contaminated yards are targeted for soil removal, and bottled drinking water is being delivered to 244 homes served by wells that contain elevated levels of lead.

Kirsten Goff Miller, 33, had no clue that lead mining waste posed a danger so close to her home. Now she waits for her daughter Destiny’s lead readings to drop to safe levels.

“I think about it every day and wonder why it is taking so long. I just don’t understand.” she said.

Missouri is the nation’s biggest producer of lead. In two of the most prolific former mining regions — the Old Lead Belt and the Tri-State area, covering portions of Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma — officials reported about 160 million tons of waste last year.

Some of the state’s earliest lead mining happened here nearly three centuries ago. Early lead mines also have been found near Lake of the Ozarks and Springfield.

A joint state-EPA project has been established to determine the extent of lead mining in Missouri.

In Washington County, the number of known places where lead and barite were found and mined has more than quadrupled.

The state’s database now shows 1,431 sites in the county, which has been separated into the Potosi, Old Mines and Richwoods areas.

Once the agencies know where to look, soil and water samples are gathered and tested for signs of lead contamination.

The EPA is trying to identify parties that may have played a role in Washington County mining over the years. But officials acknowledge that some may be long gone. Some early miners were farmers trying to earn extra money mining surface lead on their land.

Lorena Locke, a health educator at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the prevalence of Washington County children with elevated levels of lead in their blood was more than twice the state average last year.

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Catherine French November 10, 2007 | 2:09 p.m.

Why do volcanoes pollute air and waters with many heavy metals?

In the past I have worked with and talked to many researchers about
their methods of designing their research and experiments on arsenic,
mercury and lead toxicity. There are some major problems with the basic
methods and scientific "assumptions" that these people have made.

This is a response to the research done by Dartmouth College on arsenic
(and on the lack of cancers in the residents of Armagosa Valley, CA,
that has very high arsenic content in its drinking waters):

There are major experimental design questions here:

Just what is the concentration of the arsenic used in the experiment?
Was this equivalent to the concentration found in normal human blood after drinking water with groundwater arsenic? Too often experimenters in the past have made the As ionic concentrations way too high for what is found in humans (blood and urine and other types of samples), after
they drank groundwater with high arsenic content.

Was the CHEMISTRY of the experiment truly equivalent to the chemistry
found in human blood after groundwater ingestion AND the resulting
biochemical interactions that take place in the digestive tract, blood,
arteries, etc.?

We have seen many other experimenters use arsenic tests that did NOT
have the same blood chemistry and did NOT have concentrations found in
human blood after ingesting.

They used "tissue samples". But are these conditions truly equivalent
to what humans have in terms of the tissues that receive their ions from
blood and plasma through the arteries and other biochemical processes
within the human bodies?

(Report Comment)
Catherine French November 10, 2007 | 2:10 p.m.

More on problems with Toxicities

See also the problems with biological models

Recently there has been controversy over the change in arsenic (As) standards, lead (Pb) and in Mercury (Hg) standards. If those who want tighter arsenic standards in drinking water had true geologic knowledge, they would know that these materials are some of the many elements that Nature put in the earth and that the groundwater has picked up over the thousands of years. Often, arsenic (As) is associated with gold deposits, even low grade, and other sulfide ore deposits. In many places in the USA, there are geological deposits of the mineral cinnabar (mercury sulfide) and pure mercury, such as the Big Bend area of Texas near the Rio Grande river. Over geological time, the groundwater has picked up mercury in many places over thousands of years. There are also geological formations that contain trace amounts of mercury in their sediments that for eons have been washing into the rivers, groundwater, and soils.

There are several hundred naturally-occurring lead deposits (lead sulfide and lead carbonate) in the USA that were in existence long before any Europeans explorers came around in the 1500s and 1600s. In many drinking water sources, there are a number of other elements in natural drinking water, such as uranium, lead, molybdenum, nickel, sulfur, etc. that originated from natural mineral deposits.

(Report Comment)
Catherine French November 10, 2007 | 2:12 p.m.

Some researchers have been giving statements that are not based upon complete analysis, but come across as fear. One researched stated "all the time people were dying of cancers now associated with drinking that arsenic-contaminated water". But we would have to assume that all autopsies of ancient and modern humans has shown a 100% statistical correlation to arsenic and not to other factors, such as other chemicals, other metals, diet, sun exposure, prescription drug effects, genetics, other elements, etc. In addition, a number of other studies did not show good statistical analysis / correlation on the level of arsenic (percent or parts per million) and health effects. The residents of Amargosa Valley and Beatty in Nevada and the Death Valley areas in California have elevated levels of arsenic in their drinking waters, but cancers are not prevalent there. A number of residents several of us know have lived to the age of 80s and 90s. How do we explain that?

In talking to the environmental and biological scientists on the West Coast about this issue, a peculiar point was brought up. Most of them have mathematically matched arsenic levels to human health affects through regression methods. These are the SAME types of methods used on Lead and Mercury research, as seen in the scientific publications. These methods "assume" a straight statistical correlation (both linear and non-linear) between the input of arsenic and the output (health affects). But how could they have known what other elements in the drinking water were doing in conjunction with arsenic? None of these scientists have filtered out those inputs that are either not affecting the output, or are affecting in minor ways, or are affecting in combined effects that do not show up until certain conditions are correct. The methods are the analyses of variances and other advanced techniques, which do not appear to be well known by these scientists.

Few scientists and researchers know how to use statistics properly to be able to filter and view data for the actual, true cause-and-effects. Too many times researchers use statistical regression methods that assume a direct relationship between the causes and effect, which may not be real. Although there are several books on the market, one of the best books that can help researchers, analysts, and scientists is a book entitled, "Statistics for Experimenters," by Box, Hunter, and Hunter.

(Report Comment)
Catherine French November 10, 2007 | 2:13 p.m.

Native peoples have been drinking water here in America and many other places for centuries with arsenic and other "contaminants," (like lead) long before there was ever a Federal government to protect us from the Earth. Why don't the environmentalists understand basic Earth Sciences?

See this link also:

Natural arsenic and heavy metals in Alaskan waters from geological deposits:

and then sulfur also:

Shame on Nature for doing that......

(Report Comment)

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