Dirty and Clean Water in Glasses


As environmental attorneys in Missouri, we at OnderLaw know the significance of the role that lead pollution has had on Missouri communities. Among several lead-polluted sites in the state, the Big River Mine Tailings Superfund site is a major environmental concern due to heavy metal contamination. This hazardous waste site has been a legal battle for decades. In order to understand the history of the Superfund site and the legal challenges that have arisen from it, we must understand its history.

The History of St. Joe Minerals Corp.

St. Joe Minerals Corp. is a company that has had a long and complex history in the mining industry. It began in the early 1900s as the St. Joseph Lead Company, one of the largest producers of lead in the world. At the time, lead was in high demand for various industrial and military purposes, and St. Joseph Lead Company was at the forefront of the industry.

However, the mining and processing of lead ore can be a hazardous process, and over time, it became clear that St. Joe Minerals Corp. was not doing enough to protect workers and the surrounding environment from contamination. In fact, the company’s mining activities led to widespread contamination of the land, air, and water in the surrounding areas.

Despite these concerns, St. Joe Minerals Corp. continued to operate for many years, extracting lead from the earth and leaving behind massive amounts of tailings and waste. These tailings, which contained high levels of lead and other toxic substances, were stored in massive piles near the Big River, a major waterway in Missouri.

Over time, the tailings began to seep into the river, contaminating the water and surrounding land. This contamination was so severe that the area was eventually designated as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Today, St. Joe Minerals Corp. is no longer in operation, but the legacy of its mining activities continues to have a significant impact on the health and well-being of the people and environment in the surrounding area.

The Big River Mine Tailings and Its Contamination

The mine tailings at the site consist of over 100 million tons of waste material that contains high levels of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic. These contaminants were deposited along the Big River, a tributary of the Meramec River, which flows into the Mississippi River. The contaminated sediment has spread downstream, affecting hundreds of miles of riverfront, and has contaminated soil and groundwater in the area.

The contamination at the site poses serious health risks to people and wildlife. Lead exposure can cause neurological and developmental problems, while cadmium exposure can lead to kidney damage and cancer. Arsenic exposure can cause skin lesions, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Over the years, the EPA has conducted extensive studies and investigations at the site, including soil and water testing, and has implemented several cleanup measures to mitigate the pollution. However, the site remains a significant threat to public health and the environment.

Environmental law experts have been closely monitoring the developments at the site, and there have been several legal challenges related to the pollution and its impact. The St. Joe Minerals Corp. has been the target of several lawsuits alleging that the company’s activities caused pollution and exposure to toxic substances. Unfortunately, these lawsuits had to be filed in several states due to the contamination left behind at many of the sites operated on by the company.

More recently, there have been mass tort cases filed against companies that manufactured lead paint, alleging that the companies knowingly sold a product that caused lead poisoning and other health problems. The contamination at the Big River Mine Tailings site has been cited as an example of the legacy of lead mining and the continued need for environmental regulation and cleanup.

Health Effects Associated with the Site

The health risks associated with the Big River Mine Tailings Superfund site are significant due to the high levels of pollution and contamination present in the area. The severe neglect by St. Joe Minerals Corp. has led the surrounding area to become surrounded by dangerous levels of lead, which has led to serious health problems for residents in the vicinity.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin, which can have significant impacts on the human body, particularly for children. The health effects associated with lead exposure can include damage to the brain and nervous system, anemia, kidney damage, and reproductive problems. Additionally, long-term exposure to lead has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Studies have shown that children who live in the area surrounding the Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. Superfund site have elevated levels of lead in their blood, even decades after mining operations ceased. The contaminated soil and water in the area continue to pose a significant threat to public health, with many residents continuing to suffer from the effects of long-term lead exposure.

To address the health impacts of the contamination in the area, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken action to remediate the site and reduce exposure to toxic substances. However, many residents in the region have expressed concern that the government response has not been sufficient to protect their health and well-being.

Despite multiple lawsuits and strong remediation efforts, the situation at the Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. Superfund site remains a significant public health concern. Addressing the contamination and mitigating the health risks associated with it will require sustained action and investment from government agencies, private companies, and the local community.

Possible Legal Action

As with most Superfund sites, the Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. site is a complicated legal case. Over the years, various entities have attempted to hold St. Joe Minerals Corp. accountable for the contamination of the Big River and surrounding areas.

One possible course of action could be a mass tort lawsuit. A mass tort involves a large group of plaintiffs filing individual lawsuits against the same defendant, all claiming harm from the defendant’s actions. In the case of the Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. site, individuals who have suffered health issues or property damage as a result of the contamination could join together in a mass tort lawsuit.

A class action lawsuit is another possibility. This type of lawsuit involves a large group of plaintiffs represented by a single law firm. While not as common as mass tort or toxic tort lawsuits in environmental cases, a class action lawsuit could be a viable option in this case.

For those considering legal action, it’s important to find experienced environmental attorneys in Missouri. At OnderLawyers, we have successfully litigated a number of environmental cases in the state. Consulting with experienced attorneys can help plaintiffs understand their legal options and ensure that their case is pursued effectively.

Regardless of the legal avenue pursued, it’s clear that the impact of the Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. Superfund site will be felt for years to come. Those who have been affected by the contamination should not hesitate to explore their legal options and fight for justice.

If you feel you or your community has been impacted by the lead contamination at the Big River Mine Tailings Superfund site, or a similar site, click here to speak with one of our environmental attorneys in Missouri today.