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Superfund Program Implements the Recovery Act

Tar Creek

Ottawa County, Oklahoma

Site Description
The approximately 40-square mile site is in a former lead and zinc mining area, which is part of the Tri-State Mining District located at the junction of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri.  It is a rural area that has been affected by mining waste including mining waste piles known as “chat;” some of the site’s chat piles are up to 200 feet high.  The towns within the site include Cardin, Commerce, North Miami, Picher, and Quapaw, and the land use is agricultural and residential.  Much of the site land is allotted Indian land.  Elevated levels of lead, zinc and cadmium exist in the mine waste that affects the site’s soils, surface water and ground water.   

Cleanup Activities to Date
EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List in 1983.  EPA has plugged abandoned wells, which has reduced the possibility of contaminants migrating into the Roubidoux drinking water aquifer.  In addition, EPA has cleaned up the lead-contaminated soils from over 2,000 residential yards and high access areas located within the five-city mining area.  This action has significantly reduced the exposure of the population to contamination, especially young children.   

Recovery Act Project Activity
EPA will use the approximately $35.8 million in Recovery Act funds to continue the ongoing voluntary relocation efforts of Picher, Cardin and Hockerville residents. EPA projects the relocations will be completed within three years. Additional funds will be used to speed up the start of the chat excavation from the remote areas of the site and from area streams. Other additional work to be performed includes constructing a repository, providing alternate water supply to two rural residential properties and conducting cleanup of rural residential yards. EPA is currently negotiating with several mining companies to complete the work on their operating areas of the site. EPA expects that the use of Recovery Act funds will speed up the overall cleanup. As chat at Tar Creek is addressed, the land will become available for agricultural development.

FY2011 highlights include:

  • ($15.8 million- ongoing project) EPA utilized ARRA funds to continue the buyout of the towns of Picher, Cardin, and Hockerville, and the demolition of the structures in these towns. The buyout of the residents was completed in December 2010, and the demolition of the structures in these towns was completed in August 2011.
  • ($20 million- new start project) The Remedial Design is complete. The developed plans reflect the input provided by our stakeholders (i.e. 9 Tribes, the State, Federal Agencies and the Responsible Parties). Value Engineering was performed to ensure the function of the design/remedy accomplishes its purpose, and is maintainable and reliable, in a cost effective manner. . As a result of the ARRA funds that were provided on this project, over one million tons of contaminated material was removed and approximately 220 acres are remediated. More than 98% of RA construction work was awarded to small disadvantaged businesses in competitive procurements, and nearly 80% of construction labor was local to the site area. The ARRA funds that enabled the above activities be accomplished were expended in March 2011. The RA activities are ongoing using other appropriations.

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