Superfund Site Profile


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 State 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. A 1997 human health exposure study by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services showed that 17 percent of children under seven years old had blood-lead concentrations exceeding the health-based standard of 10 microgram per deciliter. Since EPA has implemented its response actions at residential properties, the rate of blood-lead exceedances in young children dropped to 2.6 percent in 2009.