Meetings on barrel plant pollution will be held in St. Francis and Milwaukee on Jan. 27

Public meetings on the status of federal investigations into environmental violations at a chain of local industrial barrel plants will be held in St. Francis and Milwaukee later this month.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) is holding the meetings Jan. 27, her office announced late Wednesday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will be on hand.

They will be the first public hearings on the wide-ranging federal investigations into a group of plants in Milwaukee County known as Mid-America Steel Drum, which refurbish and recycle steel barrels and plastic containers used to carry chemicals and other products. Investigators also are examining plants in other states.

The probes were launched after a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found the plants’ operations endangered residents and workers.

Five federal and state agencies have found more than 70 violations and leveled a $114,000 fine, and the investigations continue.

The three plants, known locally as Mid-America, are operated by Container Life Cycle Management, a joint venture majority owned by Greif Inc., a $3.3 billion Ohio-based firm. CLCM also operates plants in Arkansas and Tennessee. A plant in Indiana was recently closed.

The Department of Natural Resources, which found violations at the plants, is not scheduled to be on hand, according to information from Moore’s office. The DNR, which is working with the EPA and other regulators on the case, recently referred to the case to the state Department of Justice for possible prosecution.

DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said the agency is reviewing the matter and could not comment further as it is an ongoing case.

class action lawsuit has been filed against the plant alleging putrid fumes from the plant greatly diminish the quality of life in the neighborhood.

The Jan. 27 meetings are: 10 to 11:30 a.m. St. Francis High School Theater, 4425 S. Lake Drive, and 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Villard Square Library Community Room, 5190 N. 35th St.

Doors open 15 minutes before the meetings start.