Friday, July 20, 2012

Update on Doe Run in La Oroya, Peru

Doe Run smelting plant at La Oroya, Peru
The Doe Run facility in La Oroya, Peru. Credit: Courtesy Tim Campion

(This article appears on the St. Louis Public Radio.)

Former Doe Run subsidiary criticized for smelter pollution in Peru

By Véronique LaCapra

Updated 10:51 a.m. July 20 to clarify ownership of smelter

Missouri lead producer Doe Run is back under scrutiny for pollution resulting from metal smelting operations by its former subsidiary in Peru.

A subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives heard testimony today about the environmental and health effects of pollution from the Peruvian smelter — and discussed the joint responsibility of Doe Run and the Peruvian government for cleaning it up.

Saint Louis University environmental health expert Fernando Serrano has studied environmental pollution near the Doe Run Peru smelter — and its impacts on about 35,000 people in and around the small town of La Oroya.

“And the results indicated that practically the entire population of La Oroya was exposed to elevated levels of toxic metals,” Serrano said.

Serrano says residents’ blood levels of lead, cadmium and arsenic exceeded any acceptable health standards. He says the soils in the entire valley around the smelter are still highly contaminated.

St. Louis-based Doe Run said it would not be appropriate for it to comment on this story because it no longer owns the Peru facility. The company owned the Peruvian smelter for about a decade starting in 1997.

Parent company The Renco Group also declined to comment.

Both the St. Louis-based Doe Run Resources Corporation and Doe Run Peru are owned by The Renco Group, which is embroiled in litigation related to environmental contamination in La Oroya.

The smelter has operated in La Oroya since 1922.