FESTUS • About 16 yards near the Shapiro Brothers scrap metal recycling center have elevated levels of lead that require remediation, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Up to 15 more properties are still to be tested.
Testing in 2011 revealed high lead levels in the sediment left on city streets from trucks leaving the Festus facility, which worried nearby residents about health problems associated with lead exposure. The testing was prompted by a complaint filed by the city with the DNR.
Lead is a neurotoxin that can interrupt normal brain development and has been linked to behavioral problems in children.
At a public meeting Thursday, residents were told cleanup agreements for the yards and the scrap yard could be finalized within a few weeks, although some residents were upset details of the agreement would not be public before they are permanent and that the insides of homes are not factored into cleanup plans.
Andy Meyer said his yard already has been tested and it had elevated levels of lead. He said his two stepsons, ages 8 and 12, had elevated levels of lead in their blood.
He and his wife try to keep them inside, but it’s hard, he said. “You try telling an 8- and a 12-year-old to stay inside,” he said.
Lead wasn’t the only concern. “I worry about the air pollution,” said Robert Cowart, who lives about a block away, and said smoke sometimes engulfs the neighborhood and soot piles up on his car.
The scrap metal facility has operated at the corner of Ninth Street and Delmar Avenue since 1946 and was founded by brothers Leon and Earl Shapiro after they returned from serving in World War II, according to a history on the company’s website.
They followed the footsteps of their father, Harry Shapiro, who drove a horse-drawn wagon to pick up scrap items to sell in the 1930s. The scrap metal part of the operation occupies about eight acres of the 15-acre site. It is owned by MW Recycling, who bought the facility in September 2011. A fence surrounds the business, which mostly takes apart old railroad cars, automobiles and other metal items for scrap metal.
Residents have complained about the facility for years, including in 2005 over exhaust pouring out of machines as well as stacks of cars, radiators and sludge piles.
Missouri DNR also tested water in a nearby creek and discovered the company had discharged contaminants into it, including lead and cadmium.
MW Recycling plans to pave roads inside the facility to reduce dust, said Eugene Watson, a senior project manager with APEC, an environmental consulting company hired by MW Recycling.
The company will pay for and conduct the cleanups with DNR oversight.