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The Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. Site is located in a former mining region known as the "Old Lead Belt,” which is 70 miles south of St. Louis. This site is composed of eight large areas of mine waste in this rural region, approximately 110 square miles in size. The areas included are the Bonne Terre Mine Tailings Site, the Leadwood Mine Tailings Site, the Elvins Mine Tailings Site (also known as Rivermines), the Federal Tailings Pile Site, the Desloge Mine Tailings Site (also known as Big River), the Doe Run Mine Tailings Site, the National Mine Tailings Site; and Hayden Creek. Also included are the surrounding residential and recreational areas. In 1977, heavy rains caused an estimated 50,000 cubic yards of tailings to slough into the Big River. The residual lead content in the tailings material is about one-half percent; other minerals such as cadmium and zinc are also present. The Missouri Department of Conservation has detected elevated lead levels in fish downstream of the mining area above World Health Organization Standards. The tate of Missouri advises people not to eat fish they catch from the Big River downstream of this area. The Big River is used for recreational purposes such as fishing and canoeing, as well as for commercial activities such as watering livestock. Dust created by wind erosion contaminated the surrounding area and was a potential hazard to residents.   

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

The site became contaminated with lead, cadmium and zinc from lead mining activities, including smelting, milling, and roasting. The disposal of mine waste rock on-site created large source areas that have eroded through time due to wind and water.  Mine waste has also been mechanically transported throughout the site. The site was added to the National Priorities List in 1992.  Since that time, the EPA has addressed most of the mine waste source areas by capping the mine waste. The following gives the status of each:

The Site is being addressed through federal, state and PRP actions. 

Operable Unit - 00 includes all of the source areas.  Five of the source areas have been addressed through PRP actions. 

Operable Unit 01, Residential yards: To date, 5,109 residential properties have been sampled for lead contamination.  To date, over 1,475 residential yards have been remediated along with all contaminated schools, daycares, and head starts.  This work is ongoing and the EPA will continue to sample and remediate properties that are greater than 400 parts per million lead. This work is being done both through enforcement and EPA actions.

Operable Unit 02, the Big River:  The Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study of the River is ongoing.  The EPA expects that it will be completed in March 2021 and the Final Record of Decision will be issued in March 2021.    

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What Is the Current Site Status?

Initial actions: In 1995, the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) regraded mine wastes at the Desloge (Big River) mine waste source pile to improve its structural stability and prevent sloughing into the river. Other activities included covering and revegetating to control wind and weather erosion, and providing rock slope protection at the waterline to prevent undercutting by the river. The Desloge mine source pile is currently being used as an on-site soil repository for lead contaminated residential soil.  Upon completion, the areas used as a repository will be capped with clean soil/rock.

Entire Site: The other seven major contaminated mine waste areas have been or will be addressed through removal actions. Until long-term remedial action is taken, a combined effort of federal, state and local governments and the PRPs will take actions to reduce child blood-lead levels. These actions include in-home cleaning, health education and yard soil replacement. The EPA will also evaluate the results of testing at day-care centers, public parks and other common areas, and take action to reduce the soil exposures. The current status of the other source areas is as follows:

-Bonne Terre: chat pile was stabilized in 2007. The Bonne Terre East Tailings Flat is currently being used as an on-site soil repository for lead-contaminated soils.  Upon completion, this area will be capped with clean soil/rock. 

-Elvins: Area was stabilized in 2009.  Part of this pile is being used by the responsible party as an on-site soil repository.  Upon completion, the area will be capped with clean soil/rock. 

-Leadwood: Area was stabilized in 2010.  Part of this pile is being used by the responsible party as an on-site soil repository.  Upon completion, the area will be capped with clean soil/rock. 

-National: Area was stabilized in 2012.  

-Federal: Cleanup is ongoing and construction completion should occur by September 30, 2018.

-Hayden Creek: Not yet addressed.  Responsible parties will address under a OU1 Consent Decree.

-Doe Run: Not yet addressed. Site planning is ongoing.



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Activity and Use Limitations

At this site, activity and use limitations that EPA calls institutional controls are in place. Institutional controls play an important role in site remedies because they reduce exposure to contamination by limiting land or resource use. They also guide human behavior. For instance, zoning restrictions prevent land uses – such as residential uses – that are not consistent with the level of cleanup.

For more background, see Institutional Controls.

Institutinal Controls are established at all of the source areas where work has occurred.  These are environmental covenants that limit activities such as excavation, water well construction, and residential construction. 

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Sampling and Monitoring

OU-1: The EPA and responsible parties continue to sample soil at residential properties for lead concentration.

OU-2: The EPA has sampled the Big River and Flat River Creek at 12-15 locations to monitor the stream conditions above and below the mine waste source areas. This included sampling during the years 2012 - 2016. The sampling includes surface water and sediment along with particle size distribution. The samples are analyzed for Target Analyte Metals, including Cadmium, Lead and Zinc, which are the contaminants of concern (COCs) for OU2. In 2019, PRPs sampled the Big River as part of an additional work provision in an Administrative Order on Consent for the RI/FS. This sampling included the following:

  • Collection of 46 sediment samples as part of the baseline sampling for the upper Big River.
  • Collection of 88 riverbank samples as part of the stream bank assessment of the upper Big River.
  • Collection of 34 sediment samples located at the Big River Pilot Study Area.

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Enforcement Information


Site Order Year Parties Actions
Desloge Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) 1994

Doe Run Resources Corporation (DRC)

St. Francois County Environmental Corporation

Bonne Terre AOC 1997 DRC Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EECA)
Site-Wide AOC 1997



Remedial Investiation/Feasibililty Study (RI/FS)
Federal AOC 1997



State of Missouri

National AOC 1998


NL Industries (NL)

Elvins AOC 2000 DRC EECA
Leadwood AOC 2000 DRC EECA
Site-Wide AOC 2000 DRC Blood Lead Screening and lead-contaminated residential soil removal.
Bonne Terre AOC 2001 DRC Non-Time Critical Removal (NTCRA)
Site-Wide AOC 2004 DRC Time-Critical Removal Action (TCRA)
Elvins Unilateral Order (UAO) 2005 DRC NTCRA
Leadwood UAO 2006 DRC NTCRA
National UAO 2006



City of Park Hills, MO.

Park Hills Chamber of Commerce

Federal AOC 2009


State of Missouri

Operable Unit-1 (OU 1) AOC 2016 State of Missouri Remedial Design 
OU 1 UAO 2016 State of Missouri Remedial Action
OU 1 UAO 2016 DRC Remedial Action
OU 1 UAO 2018 State of Missouri Remedial Action
OU 1 Consent Decree 2018 DRC Remedial Design/Remedial Action
OU 1 Consent Decree 2018 NL Cashout Settlement
OU 1 Consent Decree 2019 State of Missouri Remedial Action

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