ST. LOUIS (AP) -- One of the world's largest primary lead smelters -- and the only one operating in the U.S. -- said Wednesday it will meet a new, stricter federal health standard for airborne lead.
The new guideline, which took effect in January, came after the Doe Run plant struggled for years to adhere to a less-stringent level, which it finally began meeting in April 2008.
The Doe Run Co. converts lead ore to lead metal in the nation's only primary lead smelter, located in Herculaneum, south of St. Louis.
The Missouri Air Conservation Commission will meet Thursday to discuss a range of air pollution issues, including Doe Run's efforts to reduce lead emissions.
Aaron Miller, Doe Run's environmental management coordinator, said Wednesday that the company will operate within the new standard, and is in talks with Missouri regulators to develop strategies to control emissions.
He wouldn't discuss specific ideas, but has said the company will look to new lead-making and plant-cleaning technology to meet the more-stringent standard.
Missouri regulators, however, have said in the past and reiterated Wednesday that it will be a challenge for Doe Run to meet the new allowable concentration of lead in the air of 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter. The former human health standard was 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter.
The Environmental Protection Agency said the new rules require monitoring of communities with half a million people or more, or where lead emissions exceed a ton a year. The EPA is helping the states pay for those monitors to identify polluters and develop compliance plans.
The states will report to the EPA next January whether areas that have had lead problems will meet the new standard.
Leanne Tippett Mosby, a deputy division director at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said it will be very difficult for the Herculaneum smelter to meet the new standard, which is 10 times stricter than the old one.
She said the company and the state are looking at ways to help it comply.
A 2004 federal lawsuit by Herculaneum resident Leslie Warden forced the EPA to review its health standard for airborne lead, which resulted in the stricter standard announced in October.
At a hearing last June in St. Louis, Warden said the agency's past inaction effectively "wrote off generations of Herculaneum children as the price for lead."
The Wardens' home two blocks from the smelter was among 100 that Doe Run bought out starting in 2002.