"HERCULANEUM, Mo. – The sprawling green space across from the Catholic church might be Herculaneum's prettiest asset, the kind of inviting place where people could flock to picnic or sling a Frisbee — if potential danger didn't lurk in the grass and ground.
That land, fenced off and marked by warning signs, once had a collection of homes and businesses. Each was bought up and systematically cleared by the owner of the lead smelter blamed for tainting the area with the toxic metal.
Letting the property sit empty is the kind of adjustment residents have made in the Mississippi River community of 3,600, where the nation's biggest smelter and worries about the pollution that the century-old facility emits mean people sometimes wash their hands more often and leave their shoes outside."