Missouri’s oldest industry has gotten some special protection from lawsuits. 

The owners of the Doe Run lead company are under federal orders to clean up the old Lead Belt of southeast Missouri.  But the company also is facing lawsuits from people who claim lead  and lead from mines and the mining refuse has harmed them or their families.

Senator Ryan McKenna of Crystal City says the lawsuits endanger a unique industry.

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McKenna and a couple of other senators have pushed a proposed law through the general assembly on short notice that protects Doe Run from lawsuits as long as it is making good faith cleanup efforts.  Their plan also limits punitive damages in all suits to two and-a-half million dollars.

McKenna says the situation has been so uncertain that some communities are acting in self-defense.

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He says the loss of Doe Run would be a one-billion dollar loss to Missouri’s economy and would have a devastating effect on several communities.

Sainte Genevieve Senator Gary Romine says times are changing rapidly in the area, but the past remains a problem.

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Supporters hope the protections of the bill sent to the Governor will encourage Doe Run to stay and finish developing a new processing technology that removes 99% of contaminants during processing.