Hazardous Waste Program

Cameron Environmental Investigation

In May 2008, in response to high community concern about the city’s drinking water as a possible cause of brain tumors, the Department of Natural Resources tested the public drinking water in Cameron. No contaminants that would pose a public health threat were found. Like all public water systems in Missouri, Cameron’s public water system is routinely tested to ensure the water is safe for the public to drink. Over many years of testing and evaluation, Cameron’s public water has repeatedly been found to be clean and safe for public consumption.

In response to citizen concerns, the Department of Natural Resources with assistance from the EPA conducted an environmental investigation at the former Rockwool facility in Cameron. Rockwool Industries produced fiber insulation before closing in 1981. Rockwool Industries operated a number of facilities nationwide, notably in Texas and Colorado. The primary difference between the Rockwool sites is the type of slag used in the manufacturing process. Slag is a byproduct of the smelting, or metal making, process. The facility in Texas used copper and antimony smelter slag which contains antimony, arsenic and lead, all of which are toxic heavy metals. The facility in Colorado used lead smelter slag, which also contains the toxic heavy metals lead and arsenic. The Cameron facility may have used lead slag for a short period of time when it was in operation but primarily used steel slag which contains the non-toxic heavy metal iron.

The department and EPA were in Cameron at the former Rockwool Industries site July 14-15 and collected surface soil, subsurface soil, groundwater and waste rock and slag samples. Staff also collected surface water, sediment and waste rock samples from the old Grindstone quarry where waste rock from the former Rockwool facility was taken. Staff from EPA sampled the Burlington Reservoir on July 16. Soil borings were conducted in the field south of the former Rockwool facility by EPA with assistance from the department on July 18.

In September 2008, in response to citizens concerns, the EPA with assistance from the department collected 15 drinking water samples from the tap at residential homes and the Cameron public schools.

In October 2008, EPA with assistance from the department collected soil, sediment and surface water samples from the Cameron Old City Dump.

On March 3, 2009 EPA and Cameron Public Works Department conducted re-excavation near the substation at the former Rockwool Industries site. City workers had told EPA that they had encountered material while installing an electrical line several years ago. The results from that sampling event are posted below under “Rockwool Industries Substation”.

EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources will conduct further investigation to determine how much of this sludge material is buried at this location. The agencies will also conduct XFR sampling and analysis in area where it was reported lead slag was staged prior to delivery to Rockwool Industries facility. This work is planned for the week of April 27, 2009.  

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, or DHSS, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, or ATSDR, are working closely with the EPA and the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that any possible environmental contaminants that could impact the public’s health are identified and addressed.

In Cameron, a Cancer Inquiry was conducted by DHSS to determine if there is a higher-than- expected number of benign and malignant brain and central nervous system, or CNS, tumors of the same type occurring in the area. Because Cameron’s zip code crosses into four counties, the inquiry focused on residents living in Caldwell, Clinton, Daviess and DeKalb counties. All sources of information were reviewed, verified and checked to see if they met the criteria for the inquiry. The occurrence of new benign and malignant brain tumors in the 4-county area mirrors that of the state of Missouri, which is similar to national data. No differences between the Cameron area and the state were found for overall cancer occurrence or overall cancer mortality.

Because some community members are still being medically evaluated and need time for this work to be completed, DHSS proposes for the Missouri Cancer Registry to continue with rapid case ascertainment. This is a process in which reporting facilities throughout the state submit reportable cases of benign or malignant brain and central nervous system tumors occurring among residents of the designated area soon after diagnosis. A new analysis will be completed in one year to determine if any clustering is apparent or if any trends change. DHSS will continue to remain aware and engaged in this situation and is willing to review and respond to any new information that could affect the health and well-being of Cameron-area residents.

To help Cameron and Missouri residents be as informed as possible regarding the environmental investigation, the Department of Natural Resources, along with EPA, DHSS and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, hosted public information meetings in June, August and October of 2008.

Links to a series of documents relating to former Rockwool sites and the environmental investigation are available below. For additional information about the department's Superfund Section, visit the Superfund Web pages.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry / DHSS information

Cameron Environmental Investigation

EPA, Region 7 Rockwool documents

EPA, Region 6 Rockwool documents

EPA, Region 8 Rockwool documents