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EPA Forces America’s Last Lead Smelter To Close, Impacting Ammo Production

Doe Run lead smelterIn a move that could affect ammo production, the last remaining US lead smelter is slated to close in December, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Herculaneum, Missouri, plant is owned by the Doe Run Company and had existed in the same spot since 1892. The smelter plant is reportedly the only place in America where raw lead ore is produced into lead bullion. The ore is mined locally and the finished product is sold to multiple companies, including ammo manufacturing.

When the lead smelter plant closes at the end of the year, the United States also loses its ability to produce lead ammunition from the process of mining to production of commercial cartridges, according to Patriot Outdoor News. The lead bullion is used for conventional ammo components including projectile cores, projectiles, and primers.

Nearly 150 people are losing their jobs. It would have cost Doe Run $100 million to build a new plant to meet EPA demands – a cost Doe Run said was too high.

Once the Doe Run Company closes its doors for the final time, only a few secondary smelters where lead is recycled from spent ammo components, acid batteries, and other products, will remain to offer American made ammunition projectiles and primers.

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A release from the NRA-ILA about the lead smelter plant closure reads:

Doe Run made significant efforts to reduce lead emissions from the smelter, but in 2008 the federal Environmental Protection Agency issued new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for lead that were 10 times tighter than the previous standard. Given the new lead air quality standard, Doe Run made the decision to close the Herculaneum smelter. Whatever the EPA’s motivation when creating the new lead air quality standard, increasingly restrictive regulation of lead is likely to affect the production and cost of traditional ammunition. After the Herculaneum smelter closes its doors in December, entirely domestic manufacture of conventional ammunition, from raw ore to finished cartridge, will be impossible.

The Center for Biological Diversity has reportedly attempted to ban lead ammunition at the federal level multiple times and failed. The center wanted the EPA to regulate conventional ammo under the Toxic Substances Control Act. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a lead ammo hunting ban into law.

The Toxic Substances Control Act gives the EPA the power to collect data on chemicals in order to assess, evaluate, mitigate and control the risks which could potentially be caused by the use, manufacture of processing of the materials.

Even if the data available after a chemical is submitted to the EPA is not deemed sufficient to evaluate the substance’s potentially harmful effects, the federal agency can still impose restrictions. The Environmental Protection Agency also possesses the authority, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, to restrict new uses of materials currently under review. Section 6 in the act granted the EPA supervisory control over polychlorinated biphenyls, chlorofluorocarbons, asbestos and lead. The EPA said sulfur dioxide and lead emissions around the plant were above safe levels.

Doe Run Company initiated layoffs in September and has been working with as many employees as possible to transition them to new positions within the company. In a release about the closure of the last lead smelting plant in the United States, the EPA called the shutdown merely a “business decision.”

The lead manufacturer would have had to install pollution control technologies designed to reduce lead and sulfur dioxide emissions to remain in business. Lead smelter plant general manager Gary Hughes encouraged any business looking for “dedicated, hardworking, and skilled employees” to contact them.

Ammunition report

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16 comments

  1. Well Tara, through a twist of fate, I had some involvement with a company that supplied liquid oxygen to Doe Run for use in their smelter. Our drivers always reported how in-tune the company was to environmental issues, concerning the lead mining process. Perhaps another example of a rogue EPA attack on a compliant American company ?

  2. timothy brandt MD

    In the ’70s there was a big effort by special interest groups to eliminate lead from paint & gasoline in an effort to supposedly improve the lower IQs of minority kids, as if it must be the lead and not the unfortunate social environment the kids lived in causing the problem.

    So now we have no lead in these products and lead levels in the air have gone virtually to zero.

    IQ levels have not changed even one point over these forty yrs.

    BTW- the petrol industry was one of the big supporters of the no lead movement: it eliminated their most expensive refining step and lowered fuel efficiency, so they sold even more gas.

    • Old paint on pre 1978 built houses still poses a hazard to children. It just doesn’t disappear but degrades to dust that poison small children and affects them for life. I worked with lead poisoned children and have seen first hand the damage. Lead contamination from bullets does pose a threat to our environment too. We have to live on this planet so let’s take care of it.
      I have mixed emotions on the closure of this plant.

      • timothy brandt MD

        Just because a kid has a higher than some arbitrarily acceptable lead level, it doesn’t mean he’s “poisoned.” IQ levels and academic performance correlates much more closely to social factors than biological factors.

        This plant is being closed for political purposes. They don’t really care about the environment.

      • It would seem that bullets only return the lead to the earth from whence it came, much of it now nicely encased in a copper jacket. Hardly seems like pollution Ellen. Most if not all ranges recover it for reuse after recycling. If you have a problem with bullets just say so, no need to cloak it in false environmentalism.

      • Bullets do NOT effect the environment and Gettysburg proves this. Test wells and monitoring lead on and in the ground. Lead does not leach does not contaminate water and does not hard wildlife. Does like other metals, forms a protective crust much like rust on steel. Once protected will remain there will recovered.

  3. So what foreign countries will the US rely upon for lead? I agree with responsible stewardship of our planet, but have great difficulty with being totally dependent upon others for anything, especially when the raw materials are right in front of us, or in this case, under our feet.

  4. Will we have to import? The military burns a lot of ammo, and the Geneva Convention regulates the type of projectiles used.

  5. Good riddance. I hope it drives the price of ammunition sky high. I’m tired of my otherwise peaceful weekends in the country being disrupted by “survivalist” shooting their “big boy” toys.

    Kudos, to Richard Nixon’s EPA. Well done.

    • U sir are dumb and deserve what’s coming

    • Really. You sound like you got it all covered buddy. When the Shit hits the fan you should be able to defend yourself just fine. So just sit on your ass and listen to the birds sing. But don’t come running to us for help. We don’t have nothing for you!

    • And we are tired of you stuck up city-slicker liberal morons invading our peaceful lives on the weekends. Stay in your city and you will only have to deal with drive by shootings.

  6. This article is not completely accurate, This one plant produces mostly lead for batteries and only produces approx. about 10% of that. Most of our ammo lead was already coming from a Mexico plant owned by Doe Run. I’m all about news and keeping people informed however stirring hysteria is uncalled for. So lets not stoop to the levels of those we are condemning for the false info they put out.

  7. I buy wheel weights from various junkyards and mould my own bullets. And as far as I know you can still get brass, powder, and primers. At least till Obama and his minions try to stop that too.

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