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Use of Material from the Elvins/Rivermines Tailings as Agricultural Lime



Statement of Issues

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), in cooperation with the federalAgency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), has completed this healthconsultation at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine potentialhealth risks related to the removal of fine tailings materials from the Elvins area for use as agricultural lime.


The Elvin/Rivermines Mine Tailings site (referred to hereafter as the site) is one of the six majormine tailings sites in the Park Hills-Desloge-Bonne Terre area of St. Francois County, Missouri. This area is commonly referred to as the "Old Lead Belt." The site is located between theformer towns of Elvins and Rivermines, now part of the City of Park Hills (Figure 1). Miningactivities commenced in the Old Lead Belt about 1890, with early operations including mining,milling, roasting, and smelting (1,2). In the early years, milling operations were conducted atnumerous locations in the area. Milling operations were consolidated at Elvins around 1909. The Elvins Mill also processed ore from other area mines until it was permanently closed around1940 (1,2).

The site consists of a chat pile that covers approximately 20 acres and is approximately 170 feethigh, and a tailings area covering approximately 130 acres. The tailings area is relatively flatand approximately 50 feet lower than the chat pile. "Chat" is a gravel-like waste product frommining and milling of lead ore, generally larger than 0.25 inches in diameter. "Tailings" aresmaller, resulting from a different type of milling process. Tailings are generally less than 0.033inches in diameter. The tailings area contains a surface water pond located in the northernportion of the area with woods bordering on the north and west of the tailings. A quarry andbituminous mix operation (asphalt plant), operated by Lead Belt Materials Company (LBM Co.),is located on site and uses chat/tailings as part of their asphalt mix. Until recently, LBM Co.sold fine tailings to local farmers for use as agricultural lime (2).

Environmental investigations have been conducted at the Elvins site. Chat and tailings weresampled during these investigations to determine the levels of contamination present. Samplingresults are presented in Table 1. Tier 1 Soil Target Concentrations (STARC) values from theMissouri Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) Cleanup Action Levels for Missouri(CALM) are also presented in Table 1 for comparison as screening values. Tier 1 STARCvalues are health-based concentrations representing the maximum concentration of a chemicalthat is acceptable in the soil, regardless of future land use. In general, the concentration of leaddetected exceeded the STARC concentrations, indicating potentially unacceptably high levels oflead in chat and tailings from the site. An Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) forthe site was prepared to determine the best available options for site remediation (3). The preferred alternative selected during the EE/CA process included lowering, regrading andcapping of the chat pile, regrading and capping the tailings areas (with potential future use as anathletic complex), and removing chat and tailings from the spillway, creek channel and railroadgrade (Figure 2). These actions are being taken to prevent uncontrolled movement of chat andtailings material off-site.

Under the preferred alternative selected during the EE/CA, LBM Co. will be allowed to continuetheir asphalt operations. However, according to an agreement between the Doe Run Company,LBM Co. and the EPA, the sale of tailings materials for use as agricultural lime ceased onAugust 1, 2003 (3).

Table 1.

Contaminants detected in the chat/tailings at the Elvins Mine Tailings Site in Parts per Million (ppm) (2,3,4)
Contaminants Range Mean Screening Value & Source
Lead 1 (>90 samples) 851 - 11,600 4,392 260 Tier 1 STARC 3
Lead 2 (3 samples) 1,500 - 8,600 5,067 260 Tier 1 STARC 3
Cadmium1 (>90 samples) 19.8 - 202 103 110 Tier 1 STARC 3
Cadmium2 (3 samples) 53 - 130 101 110 Tier 1 STARC 3
Zinc1 (>90 samples) 108 - 11,900 5,482 38,000 Tier 1 STARC 3
Zinc2 (3 samples) 2,90 - 8,400 6,400 38,000 Tier 1 STARC 3

1 Wixson B., Gale N., Davies B. A study on the possible use of chat and tailings from the old lead belt of Missouri for agricultural limestone. 1983 December.

2 CDM Federal Programs Corp. Site screening inspection report for site assessment activity at Elvins Mine Tailings site, Park Hills, Missouri. 1994 August 24.

3 Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Clean-Up Levels for Missouri (CALM), September 2001.

> = greater than

Blood Lead Data

Missouri Department of Health (DOH), now the DHSS, in conjunction with ATSDR, conductedan exposure study in the Old Lead Belt. Children's blood lead levels were examined in relationto concentrations of lead in yard soil, interior dust, paint and water and various measures ofexposure. Similar analyses were conducted as a control in an area that did not have lead mining history. The study concluded that, on average, children living in the Old Lead Belt had higherblood lead levels than children in the control area, and that exposure to mining waste (chat and tailings) was the most reasonable explanation for the difference in blood lead levels (5).

When the exposure study was completed, 17% of the children less than 72 months of age in theOld Lead Belt had blood lead levels greater than or equal to 10 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL),the level considered to be acceptable by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Severalactions have been taken to reduce exposure to lead in the Old Lead Belt. Soil has been replacedin lead-contaminated yards, health education and blood lead testing have been provided andsteps have been taken to stabilize the chat and tailings at some of the other large mine tailingssites in the area. Blood lead levels appear to be decreasing in the St. Francois County areaaccording to blood lead surveillance data from DHSS's Systematic Tracking of Elevated LeadLevels and Remediation (STELLAR) database. In 2001, 10 percent of children less than 72months who were tested in the county had elevated blood lead levels (greater than or equal to 10ug/dL), and only 9 percent of those tested in 2002 had elevated blood lead levels. While most ofthe children who are in the STELLAR database are from the cities and towns in St. Francoiscounty, a percentage are from rural areas, and a percentage of those children do have elevated blood lead levels (6).


The chat and tailings at the site are contaminated with lead and, to a lesser extent, with cadmium. Tailings from the site have been used as agricultural lime for many years. The particle size andcalcium content of the tailings make them ideal for use as agricultural lime. While the tailingsmaterial will break down over time, the metals will accumulate in the surface soil. No scientificstudies have been done to assess the rate at which metals accumulate under these conditions, orthe potential health risk posed by this accumulation.

Although blood lead levels in children in St. Francois County have gradually decreased over thelast several years, there is still an unacceptably high percentage of the children tested who havean elevated blood lead level.

At this point, there is no scientific data that shows that use of fine tailings material as anagricultural lime does not pose a risk to public health or the environment. Additionally, there areno controls in place to track the movement of the tailings and assure that the tailings are handledand used properly once they leave the site. Finally, there are no controls for property which hashad tailings applied to it as agricultural lime to alert potential future users/purchasers of theproperty that lead concentrations could be elevated. These reasons combined along with the factthat lead mine/mill tailing materials at the site are hazardous substances as defined by theComprehensive Environmental Remediation, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, orSuperfund), create several potential exposure pathways that have not been adequatelycharacterized. For example, exposure to the general public during transport, to farmers during reapplication, and future populations with changing land use, are all plausible.


Children are most affected by lead-contaminated materials because their activities involveintroducing non-food items into their mouths. They are also more susceptible to thecontaminants in the tailings/chat because of their immature and growing systems. Compared toadults, a greater proportion of the amount of lead swallowed will enter the blood of children. While about 99% of the amount of lead taken into the body of an adult will leave as waste withina couple of weeks, only 32% of lead taken into the body of a child will leave as waste (7). Thisallows for the accumulation of lead in the child's system where a variety of adverse healtheffects can occur depending on the level of lead to which they are exposed and the duration of exposure.

Regular blood-lead testing before a child is six years old is key to determining if the child hasbeen exposed. Controlling contamination sources, eliminating exposure pathways, practicinggood personal hygiene, and eating proper diet can prevent lead poisoning in children. Todetermine if a child has been exposed, blood-lead testing is available at the St. Francois CountyHealth Department or from private physicians. The emphasis on blood-lead testing should be onchildren younger than six years old because they are the most susceptible to blood-leadpoisoning. The St. Francois County Health Department also provides lead education materials toparents and their children to help them eliminate exposure pathways, promote good personalhygiene, and maintain a healthy diet. If these recommendations are followed, a parent cangreatly reduce their child's risk of becoming lead poisoned.


Use of tailings material as agricultural lime has been classified as an Indeterminate Public HealthHazard. A site or situation is classified as an Indeterminate Public Health Hazard when there is insufficient data to draw conclusions about the public health hazard. The Indeterminate classification based on the following information.

  1. There are currently no controls in place to monitor and track the use of tailings material once it leaves the Elvins site, making it difficult to characterize the likely exposures.

  2. Additionally, there are no controls for property which has had tailings applied to it as agricultural lime which would alert potential future users/purchasers of the property that lead or cadmium concentrations could be elevated.


  1. DHSS agrees with the recent decision to suspend the sale of mine tailings for use asagricultural lime. Furthermore, DHSS recommends that the process not resume until ithas been determined that it does not pose a health risk or the appropriate controls,including handling, transportation, and application of the material, have been developedand a long-term stewardship plan for the properties has been developed and put intoplace.


The Public Health Action Plan (PHAP) for use of tailings materials from the Elvins/Riverminessite as agricultural lime contains a description of actions to be taken by the Missouri Departmentof Health and Senior Services (DHSS), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry(ATSDR), and other involved parties. The purpose of the PHAP is to ensure that this healthconsultation not only identifies public health hazards, but provides an action plan to mitigate andprevent adverse human health effects resulting from past, present, and future exposures tocontamination from the site. Included is a commitment from DOH and/or ATSDR to follow upon this plan to ensure that it is implemented.

  1. DHSS/ATSDR will work with St. Francois County Health Department to target ruralportions of the county for blood lead screening.

  2. DHSS/ATSDR will be available to review any follow-up or relevant information aboutthe site.

  3. DHSS/ATSDR will be available to answer questions and concerns the public may haveabout the site.

  4. DHSS/ATSDR will work with the interested parties to participate in determining if theuse of tailings materials as agricultural lime poses a health risk.

  5. DHSS/ATSDR will provide input into the development of appropriate controls, includinghandling, transportation and application of tailings as agricultural lime. Additionally, we will assist in the development of a long-term stewardship plan for the properties that have had tailings applied as agricultural lime.


Cherri Baysinger, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Arthur Busch, , Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service
Gale Carlson, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Scott Clardy, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services


  1. Fluor Daniel Environmental Services. Initial Remedial Investigation, Big River MineTailings Sites, Old Lead Belt, St. Francois County, Missouri, Draft. 1995 April.

  2. Barr Engineering Company. Work Plan and Field Sampling Plan for the EngineeringEvaluation/Cost Analysis, Elvins/Rivermines Mine tailings Site, Park Hills, Missouri, Rev-1. 2001 February 15.

  3. Barr Engineering Company. Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis, Elvins/RiverminesMine tailings Site, Park Hills, Missouri, Second Revision. 2003 June.

  4. CDM Federal Programs Corporation. Site Screening Inspection Report for SiteAssessment Activity at Elvins Mine Tailings Site, Park Hills, Missouri. EPA Contract No.68-W9-0021. 1994 August 24.

  5. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Big River Mine Tailings SuperfundSite Lead Exposure Study, St. Francois County, Missouri. Atlanta: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services; 1998 August.

  6. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Systematic Tracking of ElevatedLead Levels and Remediation (STELLAR) database.

  7. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Toxicological Profile for Lead,Update. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services; 1999 July.


This Use of Tailings Material from the Elvins/Rivermines Tailings as Agricultural Lime HealthConsultation was prepared by the Missouri Department of Health under a cooperative agreementwith the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is inaccordance with the approved methodology and procedures at the time the health consultation was initiated.

Alan G. Parham
Technical Project Officer, SPS, SSAB, DHAC

The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC), ATSDR, has reviewed this health consultation and concurs with its findings.

Roberta Erlwein
Section Chief, SPS, DHAC, ATSDR


Elvins/Rivermines Mine Tailings Site Location Map
Figure 1. Elvins/Rivermines Mine Tailings Site Location Map

Elvins/Rivermines Mine Tailings Site Material Areas
Figure 2. Elvins/Rivermines Mine Tailings Site Material Areas

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Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
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