When the industrial revolution transformed the American economy, communities blossomed around new jobs and emerging industries. Major employers, like the lead smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri, drove economic growth and prosperity in these company towns. Nearly 100 years later, those company towns now face a common challenge. How do you drive economic growth after business changes and environmental regulations have altered the landscape, closing 70,000 U.S. factories, and eliminated more than 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000?
Doe Run and the city of Herculaneum are determined to overcome those hurdles and use the former smelter site as a catalyst for renewed economic vitality in the community.
“We have a unified vision among the city of Herculaneum, our residents and Doe Run to work together to improve the city by creating new jobs, growing our tax base and providing quality of life for our community,” said Jim Kasten, city administrator for Herculaneum. “Today, Doe Run owns some of the biggest pieces of property in the city, and our hope is that these areas can be repurposed and transformed for industrial business opportunities over the next 10 years.”
From a state-of-the-art port on the Mississippi River to an all-abilities playground in Herculaneum, Doe Run remediation work embraces a responsibility to bring new opportunities to the sites and communities once occupied by its mining and metal operations.
Preparing for Future Economy
Doe Run and its predecessor, St. Joseph Lead Company, were a big contributor to building and expanding the river, rail and road infrastructure that spurred development in the town of Herculaneum. Thanks to investments in remediation at the lead smelter and updates to the on-site infrastructure, Doe Run helped to bring new industry to the area through the Riverview Commerce Park LLC (RCP) shipping port.
In 2016, Doe Run sold 18 acres of previously leased riverfront property to RCP, securing a long-term commitment to Herculaneum. RCP also increased shipping capacity in Herculaneum by opening a second loading dock.
“We are pleased that our work to repurpose the property helped draw new opportunities to the area,” said Chris Neaville, Doe Run’s asset development director. “As we continue the cleanup process at the smelter, we hope to identify additional ways the land can benefit local businesses and the Herculaneum community.”
Doe Run remediation efforts continue at the former smelter property and surrounding area. In 2016, crews removed 5,000 tons of lead-bearing materials from the plant for recycling. Other work at the site included moving slag (a glassy, sand-like material leftover from smelting) situated on the north end of the property to a new slag storage area at the south end, and the next step will be to cap it with soil. All remediation work is done under guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency.
As part of its remediation commitments, Doe Run continues work on the land, houses and public buildings located immediately next to the smelter property. Several houses and other buildings already have been removed, including Assumption Catholic Church, so the company can prepare those properties for reuse.
Making Way for New Opportunities
Dismantling the Former Smelter
Bringing Value to the Community
When Dennis Mitchell began his job at the Herculaneum smelter fresh out of high school he never imagined that 43 years later he’d prepare nearby property for a playground that he now visits with his own grandchildren.
Mitchell spent his entire career with Doe Run and called Herculaneum home for most of that time. For 12 years, Mitchell served as general maintenance supervisor at the smelter. Today, Mitchell oversees Doe Run remediation at the site. This includes soil remediation and landscaping of land once owned by Doe Run to create Kade’s Playground, an all-inclusive playground that is accessible to children of all ages and abilities.
“For people who have spent their lives in Herculaneum, Doe Run has always been the cog in the wheel that kept this city viable,” Mitchell said. “Even a small contribution to support a playground helps make Herculaneum an attractive community that can sustain families for years to come.”
Mitchell and his wife raised their daughter in Herculaneum. Now, when she visits with Mitchell’s two granddaughters, they go to Kade’s Playground together.
The playground opened in 2015 and is named in memory of Kade Bauman, a local child who used a wheelchair and wanted to bring an inclusive playground to Jefferson County. Kade’s Playground was designed so that children of all abilities can play together. All structures include ramps so wheelchairs can access them. The playground also has high-back swings, a spongy playing surface and musical instruments.
“Doe Run helped build this town. As a good neighbor, we are doing everything we can to maintain Herculaneum as a place where people want to live and raise their families,” Mitchell said.
Additional Remediation Projects
As the last remaining lead mining company in the area, Doe Run manages remediation of several historic mine sites that once belonged to its predecessor companies.
Doe Run continues remediation at the former smelter in Glover, Missouri. Glover currently serves as a facility for storing and shipping Doe Run’s ore concentrates, but could one day have the potential to serve as an industrial park. In 2016, crews removed lead material and equipment from the Glover blast furnace building and baghouse. Crews also capped the slag pile and planted grass to cover it.
“Our hope is that the Glover facility – when it’s decommissioned and ready for repurposing – will be a good site for other employers,” said Neaville. “The area has railroad access and is remote, with about 4,000 acres of buffer land. We think it offers many benefits that would be attractive to several industries.”
Doe Run also oversees remediation at the Block P mine site in Montana. Block P was owned by Doe Run’s predecessor, St. Joseph Lead Company. In 2017, the company will reroute a stream near the mine. Doe Run crews also are working to cover chat piles to minimize contact with mine waste in Treece, Kansas. The chat piles were left by Kansas Exploration, a St. Joseph Lead Company subsidiary.
“Doe Run spent more than $1 million in 2016 to remediate historic mining and smelting properties in such a way as to draw new opportunities to the land.”