Federal and state agencies to continue investigation of tannery sludge distribution to northwest Missouri farms

For more information: 573-751-1010
Volume 37-183 For Immediate Release: July 1, 2009
Contact: Larry Archer, DNR
573-751-1010
Chris Whitley, EPA Region 7
913-551-7394
Kit Wagar, MDHSS
573-751-6062

KANSAS CITY, KS., - Results from the initial phase of a federal and state investigation into the use of leather tannery sludge as agricultural fertilizer on northwest Missouri farms do not appear to indicate any health risks posed by the levels of hexavalent chromium found in a limited number of farm soil samples, but further investigation to include more soil testing at other farms will begin early this month, agency representatives announced today.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), with assistance from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS), opened a cooperative investigation into the tannery sludge issue in late April 2009. The government investigation was launched in response to public concerns about a St. Joseph, Mo., leather tannery's distribution of waste sludge for use as agricultural fertilizer on northwest Missouri farms, and whether the sludge material contained hexavalent chromium that might pose health risks to the public.

Hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium(VI), has been shown to cause some forms of cancer, including nose, sinus and lung cancers. EPA and MDHSS are not aware of any studies indicating that chromium(VI) is associated with primary brain or central nervous system tumors.

To date, the federal and state investigation has led to several actions, including:

Meanwhile, EPA, DNR and MDHSS will host a public availability session next week in St. Joseph to share information from the investigation, and to address public questions and concerns. The event will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7, at the Fulkerson Center, located in Leah Spratt Hall at 4525 Downs Drive on the campus of Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. For a printable map to the meeting location, go to: http://www.epa.gov/region07/national_beef_leathers.htm

###

For more information about the tannery sludge investigation, go to: http://www.epa.gov/region07/national_beef_leathers.htm.

For more information about soil and water sampling for hexavalent chromium in Northwest Missouri, go to: http://www.dnr.mo.gov/env/hwp/sw-sampling.htm.