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EPA in Missouri

Newton County Mine Tailings National Priorities List (NPL) Superfund Site, Newton County, Missouri - Fact Sheet, March 2020

Removal Action Update

Lead Testing and Cleanup Overview


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 is testing for lead contamination in soil and private, domestic drinking water wells at residential properties and high child-use areas within the Newton County Mine Tailings National Priorities List (NPL) Superfund Site (site). This testing is part of two, time-critical EPA Removal Actions that will reduce exposure to lead and other heavy metal contaminants to protect human health and the environment. EPA’s field support contractor will work with property owners in Newton County to gain access to conduct lead testing. If your residential property has not been tested for lead contamination, talk with EPA about testing your yard or private well (see EPA contact below).


The site stretches across about 300 square miles in northern Newton County (and surrounding areas) and is part of the Tri-State Mining District where mining, milling and smelting of lead and zinc ore started in the mid-1800s and continued for more than 100 years. EPA began investigating the contamination in 1986. The primary contaminants of concern at this site are lead, zinc and cadmium. Contamination at the site is addressed under remedial and removal programs.


Lead is a toxic metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. Lead is classified by EPA as a probable human carcinogen and is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children. Lead exposure can pose serious health risks, particularly for children 7 years old and younger, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should also avoid exposure to lead to protect their children. Lead exposure can cause a range of adverse health effects, including behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and seizures, putting young children at the greatest risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing. Lead poisoning can cause negative health effects in infants and young children, including, but not limited to:
  • Slowed physical growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Nervous system and kidney damage
  • Learning difficulties
  • Behavioral problems, including hyperactivity (easily excitable or upset, unable to concentrate, short attention span)
  • Decreased intelligence (I.Q.) scores

For more information about lead, visit the CDC’s Lead page and ATSDR ToxFAQs™ .

In general, lead exposure and its effects can be reduced by:
  • Washing hands after playing outside and before meals. Regularly washing children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, stuffed animals, and toys. Keep play areas clean.
  • Regularly cleaning floors, windowsills, and other surfaces. Vacuuming often and dusting with a damp cloth to help remove dust that might have lead in it. Use a mop or sponge with warm water and general all-purpose cleaner. Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads often during cleaning of dirty or dusty areas, and again afterward.
  • Removing shoes/boots or wiping soil from shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Making sure children avoid fatty (or high fat) foods and eat nutritious meals high in iron and calcium. Children with good diets absorb less lead.

Children are more sensitive than adults to lead and can develop lifelong learning disabilities and behavior problems from lead exposure. Children 7 years old and younger are most at risk from developing health effects from exposure to lead.

It is important that children in this age range be tested annually because lead-poisoned children do not always look or act sick. The early effects of lead poisoning are nonspecific and difficult to distinguish from the symptoms of minor seasonal illnesses.


The only way to know if your child has elevated blood lead levels is to have his or her blood tested. EPA encourages parents to have their children tested for lead exposure. Talk to your pediatrician, general physician, or local health department about what you can do and about testing your child. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to check you or your child for lead exposure.

For more information on blood testing for children, you can contact:

Newton County Health Department
812 W Harmony St.
Neosho, MO 64850
Phone: 417-451-3743


EPA requires permission from a residential property owner prior to sampling for contamination. By signing and returning the access form, owners are taking the first step in the process. Once sampling results are received, they will be communicated with the property owner and, if needed, remediation of impacted areas will take place. This work is currently being conducted at no cost to the residential property owner. The access form can be found online (see Site Documents & Data → Reports and Documents).

If your residential property qualifies for cleanup, an EPA representative will contact you to discuss the sample results and proposed remediation activities for the property. This process is summarized in five simple steps:

Step 1: The EPA contractor will schedule a time to meet with the homeowner, review the affected areas of the yard, answer any questions, and address any concerns.

Step 2: The EPA contractor will ask the owner to sign the checklist and give them final permission to start the work. Once utilities are located, the cleanup can begin within a few weeks, weather permitting. The contractor’s checklist of items to discuss will include the location of private utilities installed by the homeowner at the property and determining the best way to move equipment in and out. It is the responsibility of the contractor to have utilities marked and work around them as necessary. If the contractor damages utilities or any personal property through its own negligence, the contractor is responsible for repairs at no cost to the owner.

Step 3: The cleanup generally includes excavating up to one foot of soil or gravel from areas that qualify for cleanup. If the base of the excavation is still above the EPA action level at one foot of depth, it will be excavated to two feet. If lead concentrations remain high at the base of the excavation, a highly visible barrier will be placed prior to backfilling with clean materials. The barrier is placed to warn anyone who disturbs soil in its location that contamination remains at depth and special handling of the soil beneath the barrier is required to prevent exposure.

Step 4: The EPA contractor will then fill the excavation with clean soil, return the grade to the original contours, and restore the lawn. Note: The contractor is only permitted to restore the property to its original condition without making improvements, and is required to repair or replace any items damaged through its own negligence during the cleanup process.

Step 5: Once the restoration work is complete, EPA and its contractor will request a final meeting with the owner to review the work and sign a final checklist to confirm satisfactory completion.


An Information Repository and Administrative Record (AR) file for this site are available (under Site Documents & Data) at


For more information about lead health risks and annual childhood lead-testing recommendations, Fact Sheets for the Newton County Mine Tailings Site are available online.

For more information about lead, visit:


If you have questions about this Fact Sheet, need additional information about the site, and/or would like to receive site updates, please contact EPA:

Elizabeth Kramer
Community Involvement Coordinator
Office of Public Affairs
U.S. EPA Region 7
11201 Renner Boulevard
Lenexa, KS 66219
Phone: 913-551-7186
Toll-free: 1-800-223-0425