No barrels buried near tannery say investigators

11 August 2009

On July 31, officials from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency used ground-penetrating radar to search for buried barrels on property adjacent to the National Beef Leather tannery near a Burlington Northern Sante Fe rail line.

Analysis of radar readings of the property found no soil disturbance that would suggest numerous barrels were buried on the property, according to Monday's report.

An investigation was launched by the Missouri attorney general's office and the natural resources department after a former employee of Prime Tanning, the company that owned the tannery until it was sold in March, told an assistant attorney general on July 10 that he had seen 15 to 20 steel drums being buried on the property in 1985.

The employee said he did not know what was in the barrels. The attorney general's investigation remains open. ‘We are aware that there could be other witnesses that we want to talk to,' said Nanci Gonder, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.

Another complaint received by the state alleged that pieces of barrels possibly coming from the tannery were buried on land near Agency, Missouri. Investigators determined the complaint to be invalid.

Lawsuits filed against Prime Tanning this year allege brain tumors in communities in four northwest counties were caused by tannery sludge containing chromium 6 that allegedly was spread on nearby fields.

Officials found low levels of chromium 6, a toxic chemical not used in tanning anymore, in the fields where the sludge was spread. Investigators plan to begin taking additional soil samples at other fields in late August.

Source: Kansas City Star



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