"DEPUE, Ill. — Mayor Eric Bryant was leading his usual tour the other day, driving visitors past the poisoned lake, around the abandoned bungalows, and over dusty ball fields until he reached a glittering metal mountain known here as the 'Pile of Black Death.'
The 750,000-ton stack is a mix of lead, arsenic, and other toxic metals, blended with sand and abandoned by the businesses that once employed most of the town, about 100 miles southwest of Chicago, in the Illinois River Valley.
When the wind blows, specks of toxic metals sail off the slag heap and land on the town’s modest houses and gardens, in school playgrounds, on church steps and, sometimes, in the water. 'It’s odious,' said Bryant, a trim, 68-year-old former teacher. 'We’re going on 21 years since they promised to clean it up.'
It is the lead — a toxin that can damage children’s brains at even low levels of exposure — that worries most people here."