Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The Oronogo-Duenweg Mining Belt Site includes numerous mine waste areas that are spread across roughly 270 square miles in southwest Jasper County, and part of northwest Newton County, Missouri. Former mining and smelting operations contaminated soil, groundwater, and surface water sediments with lead, zinc and cadmium. Over 10 million tons of surface mining wastes contaminated about 11,000 acres of the site. Cleanup activities and monitoring are ongoing.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

The site is being cleaned up by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and potentially responsible parties (PRP). To date, cleanup activities at the site include excavating smelter waste, mine waste and contaminated soil from residential yards, consolidation of waste and contaminated soil in subsidence pits and waste repositories, providing alternative sources of drinking water to residents whose private drinking water supply well was contaminated, and implementation of institutional controls to regulate the construction of new drinking water supply wells. The EPA is funding health education through the Jasper County Health Department to educate citizens and parents on ways to prevent exposure to lead. The county also implemented a new ordinance to test the soil prior to construction of new homes to ensure the homes are not constructed on property contaminated with mine waste.

OU 2 and OU 3 consist of residential properties, child daycare facilities and schools where the soil was contaminated with lead, cadmium, and zinc from mine waste and air emissions from lead smelters. Between 1995 and 2003, the EPA completed one removal action and several phases of remedial action to cleanup approximately 2495 residential yards contaminated with smelter and mining related waste. The EPA also provided funding to the city of Joplin through a cooperative agreement to cleanup an additional 440 residential yards where damage from the 2011 tornado exposed underlying contaminated soil. The EPA provides funding to the Jasper County Health Department to enforce a county ordinance to test the soil prior to construction of new homes to ensure the homes are not constructed on property contaminated with mine waste.

OU 4 is defined to be the groundwater near the site that is contaminated with mining related contaminants. Early testing of private drinking water supply wells indicated that many wells were contaminated with lead, cadmium, and zinc attributable to historical mining activities.  EPA’s initial response action was to provide residences with contaminated private drinking water supply wells with bottled water. Subsequently, between 2001 and 2007, 520 residences were connected to public water supplies. In addition, MDNR the constructed new private drinking water supply wells for 2 residences. The EPA also implemented a Technical Impracticability waiver stating that remediation of the upper groundwater was not feasible due to groundwater interaction with the extensive network of abandoned underground mines. In addition, the EPA worked with the state of Missouri to develop and implement an institutional control that regulates the construction of new private drinking water supply wells.

The EPA has completed several Five-Year Reviews of the site’s remedy. The five-year reviews are conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the clean-up activities in protecting public health and the environment. The most recent five-year review in 2017 concluded that response actions at the site are being conducted in accordance with the remedies selected by the EPA and that the remedies implemented to date continue to be protective of human health and the environment in the short term.  


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What Is the Current Site Status?

The EPA is currently working on operable unit 1 – Mine waste, and operable unit 5 – Surface water and sediment in the Upper Spring River Basin.  Work at operable units 2 and 3 – residential properties, and operable unit 4 – drinking water supply, are complete.

The EPA is continuing to clean up mine waste at the site (OU 1). The current cleanup contract will expire in the summer of 2020 and the EPA will complete a new clean up contract as funding is available. To date, the EPA has cleaned up more than 16 million cubic yards of mine waste and contaminated soil from more than 4000 acres of contaminated land.  

The EPA is currently developing a remedial investigation and feasibility study for the upper Spring River Basin (OU 5) to address surface water and sediment contamination. This is an extensive effort involving government representatives from three states, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma, several tribes, four counties and EPA Regions 6, and 7. The ROD for OU5 is scheduled to be complete in 2020.

The EPA is also developing a GIS database that will allow better tracking of progress at the site.





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Emergency Response and Removal

Cleanup activities included removal actions, or short-term cleanups, to address immediate threats to human health and the environment. Removal actions included cleanup of soils at six child care centers and 300 residences, and provision of bottled water to affected residences.

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