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EPA: Missouri firm needs OK before using sewer sludge

ST. LOUIS (AP)--The Environmental Protection Agency said July 31 it will regulate a Missouri company's use of sewage sludge to clean up toxins at an old lead mine after nearby residents complained of foul odors.

The EPA is overseeing work at the Leadwood Mine Tailings Superfund Site, considered one of six major mine waste areas in eastern Missouri. The Doe Run Co., based in St. Louis, owns the old mines and is responsible for the cleanup.

The EPA said its order was prompted by concerns from people living in Leadwood and surrounding St. Francois County, once the heart of Missouri's Old Lead Belt region that supplied much of the nation's lead. Left behind are tons of debris known as tailings, some standing 30 stories high, others spread out over several acres of land.

The tailings are contaminated with lead. Exposure to lead can cause stunt growth of children, result in lower IQ and cause other developmental problems.

The EPA's order addresses hauling materials to clean up the site, public trespassing and the company's use of treated sewage sludge to grow grass at the site.

Since the tailings pile is too big to haul away, the goal is to cover it with grass so that the tailings don't blow in the wind into neighboring yards or wash into streams or rivers. The treated sewage sludge is used as fertilizer, but residents complain it seeps into their yards and emits an unpleasant odor.

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