Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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Site Background

The Oronogo-Duenweg Mining Belt Site covers about 20 square miles near Joplin, Missouri. Former mining and smelting operations contaminated soil and groundwater with lead, zinc and cadmium. Over 10 million tons of surface mining wastes contaminated about 7,000 acres of the site. Cleanup activities and monitoring are ongoing.

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Site Status

The long-term remedy included sub-aqueous disposal to clean up mine wastes (OU2 and OU3), removal and replacement of contaminated soils in residential yards. Groundwater contamination has resulted in the connection of 350 homes to public water supplies initiated in 2003. EPA began cleanup of mine wastes in 2008. Remedial action of contaminated residential yards ended in 2001. EPA connected affected homes to public water supplies in 2006.

OU 1 addresses mine waste and piles. Cleanup was initiated in 2007 where approximately 7 million cubic yards of mine waste has been completed to date. Activities remain ongoing with a scheduled completion around 2020.

OU 2 and OU 3 addressed residential properties impacted from smelting and near mine waste locations. The residential cleanup was completed in 2001.

OU 4 addresses groundwater contaminated from mine waste.  EPA initially provided residences with bottled water and connection to public water supplies. This response action was completed in 2003.

OU 5 will address sediment in Spring River. A sediment transport model is being developed to complete a feasibility study. A Record of Decision is scheduled for 2020 with cleanup to follow.

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Work to Protect Human Health and the Environment

The site is being addressed through federal and potentially responsible party (PRP) actions. EPA has conducted several Five-Year Reviews of the site’s remedy. These reviews ensure that the remedies put in place protect public health and the environment, and function as intended by site decision documents. The most recent review concluded that response actions at the site are in accordance with the remedy selected by EPA and that the remedy continues to be protective of human health and the environment in the short term. Continued protectiveness of the remedy requires completion of sub-aqueous disposal removal activities. EPA is funding health education through the Jasper County Health Department to educate citizens and parents on ways to prevent exposure to lead in addition to assisting the county in developing ordinances for construction to protect capped location and prevent the spread contamination.

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Site Risks

Risks and pathways addressed by the cleanup include health risks from people ingesting or touching heavy metals, namely lead, zinc and cadmium, in soil and groundwater.

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Emergency Response

Cleanup has also 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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Through the efforts of EPA, the state of Missouri and the local community, the Oronogo-Duenweg Mining Belt Superfund site in Joplin, Missouri, is in productive reuse and portions are ready for redevelopment. The site is the new home of a scrap metal recycling facility, a highway bypass, restored residential neighborhoods and over 1,600 acres of cleaned land now ready for redevelopment. The mining, milling and smelting of lead and zinc ores at the site began in the 1850s and continued in some areas until the 1970s. The smelting operations dispersed airborne contaminants, resulting in the contamination of the site’s groundwater, surface water and soil with metals, including lead. By 2000, EPA had conducted a time-critical removal action to address high blood lead levels in local children and had cleaned up 2,600 residential properties and agricultural lands in surrounding communities.

Also, through a Prospective Purchaser Agreement with EPA, a scrap metal recycler bought and cleaned up 40 acres of the site prior to establishing its facility there. After an agreement between EPA and the state of Missouri, the Missouri Highway and Transportation Department built the Route 249 highway bypass through four miles of contaminated land on the site in 2001. The project adaptively reused mine wastes as fill material. Cleanup of the mine waste began in 2007, and the Route 249 bypass opened to the public in 2008. EPA has developed innovative solutions for disposal of site wastes to allow for future development. Some of these solutions include: long narrow containment areas, which were built, capped and turned into three miles of new roads for Webb City; an abandoned water treatment lagoon, which was used as a disposal area and will soon become a new 36-acre sports complex in Webb City; and other containment areas, designed and built for future development, including one that will become a 40-acre truck stop.

In 2009, the site received about $12.7 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds to support removal and disposal of the site's contaminated mining wastes, soils and sediments. The funds also supported the capping of the disposal areas, the backfilling and revegetating of excavated areas and the construction of wetlands to improve surface water cleanup. Today, workers have cleaned up more than 1,600 acres of the site that are ready for redevelopment. Community members continue to use portions of the site property for residential and agricultural purposes.

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