Located in the toxic towns of Picher and Cardin, Okla., the Tar Creek Superfund site was designated in 1983. The towns had to be abandoned after lead dust from surrounding chat piles, some measuring as high as 10 stories, blew into the neighborhoods. The lead and other contaminants also seeped into the groundwater, ponds and streams in the area.
About 25 percent of the children were found to have blood lead concentrations above the threshold considered dangerous by federal standards. The miscarriage rate in the region was nearly 2 1/2 times the national average.
To date, more than $150 million has been spent to clean up the site, but Tar Creek is still a long way from being declared safe. Nevertheless, locals remain optimistic that they will someday be able to reclaim their community.
"Just removing the chat piles alone could take 30 years if you could move out 100 train car loads each day," said Tyler Powell, office director for Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment. "But we are not leaving the chat piles. We are going to restore the land to what it was."
A documentary has also been made detailing the tragedy at Tar Creek.