EPA pledges $16 million per year for Tar Creek Superfund cleanup

PICHER, Okla. – The Environmental Protection Agency has pledged more than $16 million annually for the continued cleanup of toxic mine waste at the heavily polluted Tar Creek Superfund Site.

The Tar Creek Superfund site is one of the most polluted areas on the planet. The water in Tar Creek water runs red with poisonous lead. The chat piles, man-made mountains of toxic bedrock, loom. The land surface is at risk of collapsing into cavernous mine structures below.

It has been a decade since the federal government first declared the area uninhabitable. The towns of Picher and Cardin were both abandoned by their residents.

“It’s the largest Superfund site in Oklahoma,” Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Scott Thompson told News 4 in October.

Superfund is a law that gives the EPA funding and authority to clean up contaminated sites. Tar Creek, in Ottawa County, covers a 40-square-mile area and is one of the nation's oldest, most complex Superfund sites.

The Tulsa World reports the EPA, in collaboration with Oklahoma and the Quapaw Nation, announced Monday that their plan is open for a 30-day public evaluation. The plan provides an update on cleanup progress and establishes framework for cleaning up mining waste in Ottawa County over the next five years.

The EPA is expected to release a final Tar Creek Strategic Plan this summer.

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