lead

Benjamin Hoste

Lead has played a pivotal role in the history of Missouri. More than 17 million tons of lead have come out of the ground in the state over the last 300 years, and that's left a lasting impact on the state economically, environmentally and culturally. KBIA is exploring that history —and future—in our special series The Legacy of Lead.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Forest City is a very small town of about 250 people, nestled in very small, very rural Holt County in Northwest Missouri. The whole county has about 4500 residents.

Mayor Greg Book was born and raised in Forest City, and he refers to his home as “a Mayberry type of town.”

The town is quiet and charming, but there isn’t much to it. There is a diner, open until 2:00 p.m., a historic city hall, open until 2:30, and a Drug Store Museum, open for four hours every Sunday.

Fencing surrounds a patch of grass that used to be a neighborhood in the center of Herculaneum, Missouri. A sign in the grass reads, "No Trespassing. Lead Contamination."
Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

Bill Haggard is the mayor of Herculaneum, Missouri, a town of 4,000 about a 30 minute drive south of St. Louis. He’s also the fire chief, president of the historical society and a retired teacher, among other distinctions, although he identifies first as a “lifelong resident.”

For more than a century this town was built up around the lead smelter that sat along the Mississippi River. Today, though, most of the houses remaining in the hollowed out center of town are marked in spray paint with a bright orange ‘X.’

“If they have an ‘X’ on them they’re coming down,” Haggard says while driving by houses slated for demolition.

 

It was a busy summer for environmental safety workers at the school district in Rochester, New York, where employees sampled over 2,000 school water fixtures and replaced nearly 20 percent of them, after finding problematic levels of lead.

 

Timothy Smith / flickr

Preliminary testing shows lead contamination in the water in some St. Louis school buildings.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that tests conducted this summer revealed lead contamination in several buildings. St. Louis Public Schools spokesman Patrick Wallace says drinking fountains and sinks are shut off in several school buildings until pipes and faucets are replaced.

Michaela Tucker / KBIA

When a woman is trying to leave an abusive relationship or unsafe domestic situation, shelters offer a safe space for her to stay and get back on her feet. But leaving an abusive relationship can be difficult for any woman.

According to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, a woman seeking help will be in and out of a shelter seven times on average, before leaving the relationship. For deaf individuals, that number doubles.


L.E.A.D. Institute Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Logan sits at her desk, the same one she's had her whole career at L.E.A.D.
Michaela Tucker / KBIA

The deaf community has its own language, culture and set of obstacles, and most hearing people will never interact with it. But Dr. Stephanie Logan was thrust into the deaf community when she lost her hearing at the age of 23.

Logan was studying psychology at the University of Georgia when she contracted spinal meningitis. In less than a week, her hearing was completely gone.


missouri capitol
Kristofor Husted / KBIA

A Missouri lead mining company has contributed $10,000 to House Republicans after legislators enacted a law shielding the company from large liability judgments in some lawsuits.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed legislation that would have shielded a Missouri lead mining company from punitive damages in some contamination lawsuits.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Herculaneum, Mo., a small town on the bluffs above the Mississippi River, was always a company town.  The company, Doe Run, is the largest lead producer in North America, trucking in lead from Missouri's rich mines to a 120-year-old smelter on the river.  For 25 years, the smelter didn't meet federal air standards for lead, and now, after decades of battling government regulators and angry parents, Doe Run is leaving town at the end of next year.