Trustees Open 45-Day Comment Period on Draft Regional Restoration Plan for Natural Resources Injured by Hazardous Substances Releases in Southeast Missouri

Last edited 09/03/2020


Biologists from Missouri Department of Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shown here in 2009, assessing freshwater mussel populations and heavy metal contamination of sediments in Big River in southeast Missouri. Photo credit: John Weber, FWS.

On September 20, 2013, the federal and State natural resource trustees opened a 45-day public comment period on “Southeast Missouri Ozarks Regional Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment.” This draft Regional Restoration Plan describes proposed alternatives for restoring natural resources and natural resource services injured by hazardous substances releases in the southeast Missouri Ozarks lead mining district.

The natural resource trustees involved in this case include:

  • State of Missouri, represented by Missouri Department of Natural Resources;
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, represented by U.S. Forest Service; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The southeast Missouri Ozarks lead mining district covers multiple counties south and southwest of the City of St. Louis. The region is the largest lead production area in the U.S. Within this district are several lead mining areas that are geographically and temporally distinct:

  • the Big River Mine Tailings site, directly south of St. Louis, dates from the 19th century through the 1970s;
  • the Madison County Mine site, south of the Big River Mine Tailings site, has some of the oldest mining operations in Missouri dating from 1740; and,
  • the Viburnum Trend site, located farther west, began lead mining in the 1950s and remains the largest producer of lead in the U.S. today.

Mining activities -- including beneficiation, transportation and smelting -- have resulted in the release of hazardous substances, mainly heavy metals. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has placed large portions of the district on the National Priorities List.

These hazardous substances releases have resulted in injuries to natural resources and natural resource services including large-scale ecological injury to thousands of acres of terrestrial habitat and hundreds of miles of streams. Five settlements for natural resource damages, totaling $41,178,370, were reached in 2009 as part of the larger ASARCO bankruptcy settlement agreement.

The trustees developed the draft Regional Restoration Plan to identify preferred alternatives to restore injured natural resources and to establish criteria for selecting specific projects to implement these alternatives. This draft Regional Restoration Plan selects compensatory restoration projects -- projects located away from the site of injury -- as the preferred restoration alternative. These projects will be funded using the natural resource damage settlements and selected by the trustees using a Request-for-Proposals approach.

Written comments on the draft Regional restoration Plan must be received by Missouri Department of Natural Resource by Monday, November 4, 2013.

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