New allegations of illegal dumping have once again put the Doe Run Company and one Heartland town in the spotlight.
Several former employees of the Herculaneum lead smelter have now publicly claimed that they were instructed to illegally dump or bury toxic trash near the smelter for years.These allegations have caught the attention of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, but DNR spokesperson Connie Patterson tells Heartland News that so far, no one has been able to give specifics about where illegal dumping may have taken place. Right now the department is still looking into the charges, and dealing with another Doe Run-related controversy: the company's financial troubles. And both issues may mean people all over the Heartland could pay for the cleanup.
Even while the Doe Run Company is still negotiating the details of its roughly 160-home buyout plan with the state, more troubled rumors are reaching residents' ears. Grayson Rasnic, a dad who hopes to be bought out soon, says he wouldn't be surprised if allegations of illegal dumping were true. "We kind of got a clue to that, when the lady next door and several neighbors had acid damage to their cars and Doe Run paid for it to be repainted," he says. "If that's the minimum, just letting sulfuric acid loose to rain down on the community, I'm sure that inside that slag pile there's God knows what!"
And when the company admitted it was having trouble paying back over 300-million dollars in bond debt, Rasnic and other residents worried that it might declare bankruptcy, and leave the state with millions of dollars of clean-up bills. "I think they're finally having to be accountable, so they're trying their best to slip out of it," offers Rasnic. "And the state can't afford it, that's for sure!"
But not everyone thinks Doe Run has dumped illegally, or would dump the cost of their clean-up onto taxpayers. Some of the folks who've lived in Herculaneum the longest say they think those rumors...are just rumors. Frank and Vernele Karr have lived in their home just a mile from the smelter since 1947, and Frank worked there for 45 years. They say they've never had lead-related health problems. They don't think the company would ever knowingly put anyone at risk. "These people (that are making the dumping allegations) just lost a big strike there a few years ago, and they've got hard feelings against the company," says Frank. "So they'll do anything to hurt them." Vernele Karr agrees. "I think people should look at the good side and not the bad side of Doe Run, because they've helped this town a lot and somebody's just blown it out of proportion."