The tale of Doe Run: a firm grip on the corporate ankle.
Little did I know when I attended my first public meeting in 1986 in Winona, Missouri Winona is a city in Shannon County, Missouri, United States. The population was 1,290 at the 2000 census. Geography
Winona is located at (37.006927, -91.328795)GR1. , concerning potential lead mining in the region, that I would still have my jaw firmly planted around the Doe Run Company's corporate ankle in 2006. In the mid-eighties we only knew that the area we lived in was incredibly beautiful and relatively pristine as far as air and water were concerned. We also knew, rudimentarily, that lead was not something healthful health·ful
1. Conducive to good health; salutary.
healthful·ness n. and it would not be good if it were spilled and slathered all over Missouri's Scenic River Region. The ensuing 20 years have filled in the blanks of our knowledge and taught us to pay attention to details.
Ninety-five percent of all lead mined in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. comes from Missouri. Doe Run is a St. Louis-based mining company that had morphed from the historic St. Joe Lead Company in the mid-eighties. The new name joined the St. Joe Lead Co. with Homestake Mining of San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden .
Around that time, a rather large group of Ozark dwellers, mostly refugees from other less pristine areas of the US, gathered in West Plains, Missouri West Plains is a city in Howell County, Missouri, United States. The population was 10,866 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Howell CountyGR6. The West Plains Micropolitan Statistical Area consists of Howell County. to air our concerns about Doe Run's plan to explore for lead deposits along Missouri's three National Scenic Rivers, the Current, the Jacks Fork and the Eleven Point Rivers. We knew next to nothing. Around 30 people eventually sifted down from the 150 in that room. One of the first leaders to emerge from that pared-down number of fledgling activists told us to prepare for a long fight if we decided to take on the world's largest integrated lead producer. She also told us that we needed to educate ourselves on all aspects of the problem from geology to government bureaucracies. A core group of us have done just that.
The first efforts were playing defense. The more we learned about our karst Karst (kärst), Ital. Carso, Slovenian Kras, limestone plateau, W Slovenia, N of Istria and extending c.50 mi (80 km) SE from the lower Isonzo (Soča) valley between the Bay of Trieste and the Julian Alps. topography in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, the more we knew just how great a threat lead mining would be. A vast area of sinkholes, losing streams and caves spoke to us as did a new-found ally, hydrologist hy·drol·o·gy
The scientific study of the properties, distribution, and effects of water on the earth's surface, in the soil and underlying rocks, and in the atmosphere. Dr. Tom Aley. He told and showed us just how fragile karst was. At his Ozark Underground Laboratory, a sprawling two-mile registered national landmark A National landmark is a site identified by a national authority as one possessing nationally–significant natural, historic, or scientific resources. Typically, it identifies an isolated site and not a landscape or complex of sites better suited to management as a national , Tumbling Creek Cave, he demonstrated that whatever was on the surface of the ground would end up in the underground water system in as little as 15 minutes from the first rain drops of a storm.
Karst, decaying limestone perforated with holes much like a sponge, provided many astounding a·stound
tr.v. a·stound·ed, a·stound·ing, a·stounds
To astonish and bewilder. See Synonyms at surprise.
[From Middle English astoned, past participle of astonen, geologic features and as many hydrologic features such as Big Spring, North America's largest single-outlet spring, and Greer Spring, Missouri's second largest spring--and most wild. These and a myriad of tertiary world-class and minor springs provided much of the crystal clear water to the National Scenic Rivers (the Jacks Fork and Current) and the Wild and Scenic Eleven Point River. The springs, rivers and caves made this area beautiful, fragile and definitely worth saving from industrial processes such as mining. A couple of billion gallons of water leave the Ozarks through these outlets every day as well as dissolved limestone. Mining waste (tailings Tailings (also known as tailings pile, tails, leach residue, or slickens) are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the worthless fraction of an ore. ) ponds and transportation and smelting of lead ore would irrevocably change this special place.
Never having dealt with government bureaucracies before, our merry band quickly discovered its laws, rules and processes. The first battles were all fought within the minefields of the Forest Service and the US Department of Agriculture. We appealed the Forest Service's decision to let Doe Run explore. Hundreds of meetings, hearings and appeals delayed the onset of exploration until 1992. Doe Run did eventually sink 6 exploratory drill holes (the Forest Service had given permits for 20) but stopped due to falling metal prices and bad weather.
We had lost our first battle; however, we had learned thousands of valuable lessons. What was at stake, how the mining industry operated and how they had cozied up to the very government agencies which were also sworn to "protect" resources like the Mark Twain National Forest and the Scenic Rivers were all included in our steep "learning curve."
In the early nineties, Doe Run and other resource extraction companies formulated the "Wise Use Movement," panoply pan·o·ply
n. pl. pan·o·plies
1. A splendid or striking array: a panoply of colorful flags. See Synonyms at display.
2. of industry-sponsored phony grassroots groups designed to keep real activists off their corporate tails and busy fighting such fictional issues as a United Nations takeover of the Ozarks and mysterious black helicopter invasions designed to steal private property from the citizenry and introduce rattlesnakes to the Ozarks. Their standard cry was to mine, clear-cut and bury all public lands in All Terrain Vehicles.
They also blurred the lines between what was public and what was private, often demanding that private corporations had a God-given right to devastate dev·as·tate
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark. public property. (Many of the stars of that movement have gone on to populate the administrations of George W. Bush.) Actually the rattlesnakes had never left the Ozarks but it made for great fearmongering to hear tales of them being dropped out of helicopters! Mining sympathizers, having been promised high-paying jobs by Doe Run, assaulted us verbally and sometimes physically. Some of us were beaten up; some of us received death threats and dead cats in the mail. Somewhere in between dealing with government and corporate tomfoolery and the fear mongers, we decided to take the offensive position. Football and politics allow the players to act in both modes. It wasn't really a conscious decision; it simply evolved. I suppose some of us had reached our fill of lies and damn lies.
The more we learned, documented and photographed mining, the more we knew how destructive and detrimental it was. The United Nations lists mining as the single most destructive human activity on the planet. The pictures, historical as well as current, were not at all pretty. Doe Run had lots of dirty laundry and we, (the Local Committee for a Lead Free Ozarks, the Ozark Center for Environmental Education, the Ozark Riverkeepers Network, the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club Sierra Club, national organization in the United States dedicated to the preservation and expansion of the world's parks, wildlife, and wilderness areas. Founded (1892) in California by a group led by the Scottish-American conservationist John Muir, the Sierra Club and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment) dug into Doe Run's past, their ownership and their disasters and we aired their soiled operations on every media outlet who would listen.
Gratefully, we discovered that we had many allies and literally thousands of people nationwide and even internationally who knew about our rivers and the foul escapades of lead mining. They sent their letters to the Forest Service by the thousands and we knew we were not alone in our fight. Corporations have an Achilles heel: just like cockroaches cockroaches
insects which may carry Salmonella spp. in their gut and play a part in the spread of the disease. they have an aversion to light and we delighted in exposing poisoned workers, poisoned lands and waterways and neglected laws to the light and truth of news coverage. A curious thing began to happen. Doe Run had begun to spend money on lawyers and public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most to defend its past and present sins. When we discovered an illegal dump on the back of their property, they had to spend money on a fence to keep out prying cameras.
Then, one day in 1993, the world changed for us as well as Doe Run. Three of our photographs, taken from an airplane 1500 feet above one of Doe Run's smelters showed that the company had been illegally dumping lead-bearing barrels of waste and had violated the Federal Clean Water Act ... five times! For these violations, Doe Run received a $300,000 fine from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Many sub-national governments have a Department of Natural Resources or similarly-named organization:
Lighthawk is an organization of volunteer pilots who give their flying skills and space on their airplanes to activists to enable them to have a "bird's-eye view" of environmental problems. Activists supply the fuel money. Our pilots, Elmer Schettler and Rick Durden, have flown many times over Ozark skies and both have become fast friends as well. Rick is now the National Director of Lighthawk. Doe Run workers spent a lot of time scanning the skies (their words) and the corporation spent thousands and perhaps millions of dollars making their facilities "impervious" from our friendly skies.
What was once hidden behind forested hills was now in the open: thousands of acres of mine waste tinged with eerie chemical colors, hundreds of rusted buildings, vent shafts, nasty diesel plumes, miles of slurry pipe, abandoned machines and waste were suddenly front-page news. Doe Run had threatened the very core of what makes this area uncannily beautiful and unique; it also threatened to poison all we held dear. The gloves were off.
In 1996, the miners changed course. Instead of trying to mine on federal land in the national forest, they pulled a sneak attack and proposed to mine on state conservation lands in Shannon and Carter counties. The faithful activists, who had persevered for a decade, now confronted the corporation and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC (1) (Mobile Daughter Card) See riser card.
(2) See Meta Data Coalition. ), which had made a pre-emptive pre·emp·tive or pre-emp·tive
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of preemption.
2. Having or granted by the right of preemption.
a. decision to allow Doe Run access to state lands. This was done in secret session, out of public view. MDC had clearly broken the state's Open Meetings and Records Act.
Outraged, several of us decided to sue the Conservation Commission. The justice system sided with us. Clearly, also, the charter for the Missouri Conservation Commission, set into existence with help from none other than iconic conservationist Aldo Leopold in 1936 made no mention of mining ... only that the commission shall have purview The part of a statute or a law that delineates its purpose and scope.
Purview refers to the enacting part of a statute. It generally begins with the words be it enacted and continues as far as the repealing clause. over fish, forest and wildlife. Mining was a nonstarter for them. Victory was achieved on this as thousands of Missourians wrote the Commission objecting to the plan.
The year 1997 brought Bob Lunsford into the equation. He was a technician at the University of Missouri, Rolla, working on an experimental smelter for Doe Run's low-alpha lead process. Lucrative low-alpha lead was a necessity for shielding high tech computer chips. The university as well as Doe Run funded and operated the experimental smelter on school property and on several occasions, through the ineptitude Ineptitude
See also Awkwardness.
meek hero unable to kick a football, fly a kite, or win a baseball game. [Comics: “Peanuts” in Horn, 543]
incompetent commander of the minesweeper Caine. of several other technicians and professors, the smelter's plastic pipes melted (Doe Run has always operated on the cheap, skimping 'skimping' Managed care The delaying or denial of services to members of a prepaid or 'capped' health plan, to control costs–because the monies received by the health plan remain constant, providing 'extra' services is more costly to the plan. See Skimming, Capitation. on quality control and safety.) McNutt and Fulton Halls had become contaminated contaminated,
v 1. made radioactive by the addition of small quantities of radioactive material.
2. made contaminated by adding infective or radiographic materials.
3. an infective surface or object. with up to 150,000 parts per million parts per million
mg/kg or ml/l; see ppm. (ppm) lead and other heavy metals heavy metals,
n.pl metallic compounds, such as aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and nickel. Exposure to these metals has been linked to immune, kidney, and neurotic disorders. .
Bob and other employees began to suffer health problems and they were the kind of symptoms found in other parts of the lead industry. What separated Bob Lunsford from the others was that he meticulously documented the accidents, the contamination and the complicity and awareness that the school officials exhibited. School administrators and Doe Run knew of the contamination and yet said nothing to students or staff working in those buildings. Technicians were expected to work around this dangerous machine without safety equipment, respirators or protective clothing. Many of them, including Bob, unwittingly took heavy metals home to their families. No one would listen to Bob at first. He found help in the environmental community.
With some financial support from the Sierra Club, he made copies of all his evidence, from photos to memos, and saved them for eventual litigation An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.
When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. . I had connected him to the Washington, DC-based Government Accountability Project The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and . They agreed to take Bob's case; he had been fired from UMR UMR Unite Mixte de Recherche (French: Mixed Unit of Research )
UMR University of Missouri - Rolla
UMR Upper Mississippi River
UMR Uniform Methods and Rules (US Department of Agriculture)
UMR Unit Manning Report on Christmas Eve 1998 mostly for trying to do the right thing and expose the problems with the smelter project. Beware, the whistle blower Whistle Blower
An employee who has inside knowledge of illegal activities occurring within his or her organization and reports these to the public.
Although whistle blowers are protected under federal law from employer retaliation, there have been cases where . Like Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, whistle blowers gain very little from their efforts except pain and more pain. After the lawyers took depositions in preparing for a trial, the University settled out of court. Bob had "won" but he still suffered from the effects of heavy-metal poisoning. He coughs incessantly and has constant pain in his extremities. He also brought his meticulous detail and his dislike of things Doe Run to our ongoing battle.
As 2000 approached, Bob Lunsford and I began to explore the various mining and smelting facilities of Doe Run, who had purchased all other mining operations in Missouri in 1997 and consolidated their hold on lead mining in Missouri. We probed the smelter town of Herculaneum and began to attend faithfully the EPA-sponsored CAG CAG 1 Chronic atrophic gastritis 2 Coronary angiography, see there (Citizen Advisory Group) meetings in "Herky." Bob brought his technical expertise and dogged sense if injustice and I brought a historical perspective.
We became avid members of the "After Midnight Club," showing up after the midnight hour to witness and record all the "fugitive emissions" spewing from Doe Run's leaky old smelter. These poisonous gases and small particulates were cast to the winds and settled onto the sleeping town. We showed many of our photographs to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and to the press. This was proof that Doe Run was not complying with the Clean Air Act. The MDNR's own air monitors showed that Doe Run had never complied with the law.
A concurrent issue arose quickly in Herculaneum when a brave citizen, Jack Warden, gathered samples of the "funny gray dust" that coated all the streets and alleys in the town six inches deep. Bringing the samples to a CAG meeting, Jack asked me what to do with them. I directed him to MDNR's Dave Mosby, who appeared to be sincere and open. Risking his job and the wrath of the mining industry, he analyzed the samples and they added up to an astounding 300,000 parts per million lead. This was an unheard of amount: one third of all that dust was lead. The local and state newspapers quickly spread that news and soon we were giving tours to CNN CNN
or Cable News Network
Subsidiary company of Turner Broadcasting Systems. It was created by Ted Turner in 1980 to present 24-hour live news broadcasts, using satellites to transmit reports from news bureaus around the world. , 60 Minutes II, the New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times, LA Times and Bill Moyers' Now.
Herculaneum was "on the map" and pressure was mounting to have the MDNR MDNR Michigan Department of Natural Resources
MDNR Missouri Department of Natural Resources
MDNR Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and EPA EPA eicosapentaenoic acid.
n.pr See acid, eicosapentaenoic.
n. force Doe Run to buy out homeowners with contaminated houses. Some homes tested as high as 240,000 ppm. After an arduous negotiation session, Doe Run agreed to buy 160 homes over three years and to replace the soil of all contaminated yards. Today, virtually the south side of town is empty and the people moved to safer places. Despite millions of dollars of improvements on the 1890s smelter, buyouts and clean-ups, the town continues to be recontaminated.
In 1998 and again in 2003 a writer from Vanity Fair, Michael Shnayerson, exposed the ultimate corporate owner of Doe Run, Ira Leon Rennert. This crony of convicted junk bond junk bond, a bond that involves greater than usual risk as an investment and pays a relatively high rate of interest, typically issued by a company lacking an established earnings history or having a questionable credit history. king Michael Milken Michael Milken
As an executive at Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. during the 1980s, Milken used high-yield junk bonds for financing and corporate takeovers. While his personal wealth was enormous, he spent two years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of securities fraud. had the public persona of a beneficent be·nef·i·cent
1. Characterized by or performing acts of kindness or charity.
2. Producing benefit; beneficial.
[Probably from beneficenceon the model of such pairs as philanthropist, donating millions to schools here and in Israel. His website entitled the Torah Ethics Project promulgated prom·ul·gate
tr.v. prom·ul·gat·ed, prom·ul·gat·ing, prom·ul·gates
1. To make known (a decree, for example) by public declaration; announce officially. See Synonyms at announce.
2. just and moral relationships with all. Privately, however, Rennert was building a grotesque copy of Versailles in Sagaponack, Long Island, reported to have cost one-hundred million dollars; at 100,000 sq. ft it was to be the largest house in America. It became known as the house with 41 bathrooms. The private persona of Mr. Rennert also included owning poison-filled industries such as Doe Run in Missouri, WTI WTI West Texas Intermediate
WTI Western Transportation Institute (Montana State University)
WTI World Tribunal on Iraq
WTI With The Idea (used in chess to point to the idea behind a specific move) Steel in Ohio and Magcorp in Utah. Poison, profit and death belied his Torah Ethics Project.
In 2002, the Rev. Elinor Stock gave a brief speech under the St. Louis Arch. The hair stood up on my head when she told of a huge protest of Peruvian citizens happening just then concerning lead poisoning lead poisoning or plumbism (plŭm`bĭz'əm), intoxication of the system by organic compounds containing lead. in the Doe Run smelter town in the Andes, La Oroya. Doe Run purchased the old multi-metal smelter in 1997 and promised to clean it up. Company officials claimed to have reduced pollution by 40%. What they didn't tell the world was that their production increased 300% in that same time period. Virtually everyone in that town (30,000 people) was lead poisoned and the town was highly contaminated with heavy metals--25 times higher than allowed in the US.
Ellie Stock was a Presbyterian minister whose church had a mission in La Oroya. Joining Hands Against Hunger was a Presbyterian program that butted heads with the blatant mass poisoning of this Andean town. Our Herculaneum activists hosted two nurses from La Oroya, who told us horror stories about the people living in a toxic soup. Our Herculaneum chapter of Joining Hands agreed to work with and support our Peruvian counterparts. Two activists from Herky went to Peru to present a historical view and evidence concerning Doe Run's operations in Missouri. They testified before the Peruvian Congress.
A recent decision by the Peruvian government to only allow Doe Run 34 more months to complete the environmental clean-ups they promised in 1997 instead of the five years wanted by the company was a sign of a backbone being formed. Our Herculaneum Joining Hands group had also met with the Huancayo Province Catholic Archbishop, Pedro Barreto. Through Archbishop Barreto, Rev. Elinor Stock and our contacts at St. Louis University, the first-ever independent health study was done in 2005. The results gave the Peruvian government proof that Doe Run's lead and other heavy metals were poisoning the population.
After 20 years of preventing lead mining's expansion in the Ozarks, expanding our activity outward statewide, nationally and now internationally, Doe Run now has no place to hide its past, its current deeds or how it operates. At every turn, our exposing them has cost them millions of dollars and bestowed on them a public relations nightmare. It couldn't have happened to a better polluter.
Tom Kruzen is Chair of the Mining Committee of the Ozark Chapter, Sierra Club.