St. Francois County owns property on Maple Street where our Road & Bridge Department was
located for over 60 years. During those years oil and fuel were accidentally spilled on the
grounds while lead based gravel had been used for fill and paving. Those contaminates had to
be removed before the property could be sold or otherwise used.
A study by our Engineers working alongside Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
indicated that over 6,600 cubic yards of contaminated soil must be removed. The DNR rules in
place at that time stated that “contaminated soil must be replaced by clean SOIL”. In other
words, we quickly realized that a huge amount of clean soil must be purchased from some
farmer-hopefully nearby, removed, loaded and hauled to our 711 Maple Street site.
Finding lead-free soil in the heart of the” lead belt” would be difficult if not impossible. This
made the hauling distance seem daunting and very expensive. The Engineers estimated the
cost of this soil replacement to be $604,000 by the time is was purchased, hauled and placed.
Remember, too, that the property is a commercially zoned area next to the Maple Valley
Shopping Center. It was almost certain that an office or sales building would be built there with
a large parking lot. These would make the freshly placed topsoil a problem and it would
possibly need to be removed and replaced before construction could start.
A question arose during a planning session. “Why not replace the contaminated soil with clean
ROCK?” This made lots of sense and we asked DNR about the possibility. They instantly said
“No, the rule says to replace soil with soil!”.
Commissioner Patrick Mullins, in a very nice manner, began working with the DNR officials to
show them the common sense involved in changing their rule to allow for soil replacement by
rock. It would not require the devastation of farmland by the removal of topsoil. It would
better prepare the site for upcoming construction and would greatly lessen the cost burden to
the taxpayers of our County. Patrick spent a considerable amount of time on this and the DNR
officials came to agree with him.
In the meantime, our Road & Bridge Supervisors (Clay Copeland and John Gross) went to each
rock quarry located in our County and found that one of them had a massive amount of
overburden (inferior rock removed from primary work areas) that was stored in an area where
they now wished to start removing the better quality rock below it.
They offered to donate this overburden rock to the County if we would just haul it away. In
fact, they would load our trucks for us! This was a tremendous boon for our taxpayers (in the
end, as we needed weight verification of the amount of rock hauled for DNR purposes, we paid
them $5 per truckload for a scale receipt. A truckload of higher quality rock would have cost
$160 per load.)
At the end of the project, we had paid out only $51,570 for the land reclamation rather than
the estimated $604,000–for a savings to our St. Francois County taxpayers of $552,430!
Due to the success of this program, DNR has altered its rule of replacing “soil for soil” with “soil
for soil or other suitable materials” and other Counties, businesses, landowners and
Communities in our State are benefiting from our example.
We have proved that working ALONGSIDE agencies can often produce better results than
working AGAINST them. Our taxpayers benefited greatly from Patrick’s dedicated work in
achieving this rule change by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Our County Commission is blessed with the abilities and work ethic of Patrick Mullins. He has
spent countless hours in meetings with the various officials of nearly every state organization
during his years in office. After many conversations (and cups of coffee), he has come to know
many of them on a first-name basis. This personal acquaintance between Patrick and these
leaders paved the way for his conversations and ability to convince them to alter their
rules—for the better.
Harold Gallaher, Presiding Commissioner