New EPA Regs Force Last Lead Smelter in USA to Close

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According to TFB, the final source for lead in the United States will be forced to shut down thanks to the new EPA standards that the Obama administration is mandating. Apparently the facility would cost $100 million to bring up to code, and the company that runs it would rather strip the site and sell it than spend the money to refurbish it. From STL Today . . .

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the company “made a business decision” to shut down the smelter instead of installing pollution control technologies needed to reduce sulfur dioxide and lead emissions as required by the Clean Air Act.

The Doe Run Co. announced last year that it had dropped plans to build a new lead processing facility in Herculaneum that would have used a new, cleaner lead production technology. The company cited the $100 million project as too financially risky.

As I said, this was the final lead production facility in the United States. Its location was one of the prime reasons that the Lake City arsenal and other ammunition manufacturers have established themselves nearby, to keep shipping costs down. But with the lead no longer flowing, the next most viable source will be China and require substantially more money to truck overseas for production.

This will also be a big headache for range facilities, since some of them use the reclaimed lead from the dirt berms to pay the bills. There are companies in the United States that will actually pay the range to come in and refurbish their berms, giving them a percentage of the money they make selling the reclaimed lead back to this smelting facility. MCB Quantico operates their ranges this way, closing down once every four years for a re-fit that pays for a lot of the ranges’ services. Now that they will need to ship that lead overseas before it is processed, that will make the whole business more expensive and might drive up range fees.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the price of ammunition jumps as well. Heck, this might even kick off a second ammo shortage if things go badly.