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10 examples of why the Superfund program matters

By: Bryan Nelson on Oct. 12, 2017, 11:20 a.m.
Tar Creek Superfund site

Photo: Kelly/Flickr

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Tar Creek, Oklahoma

Located in the towns of Picher and Cardin, Oklahoma, the Tar Creek Superfund site was designated in 1983. The towns had to be abandoned after lead dust from surrounding piles of chat (a toxic mining byproduct), some measuring as high as 10 stories, blew into the neighborhoods. The lead and other toxins also seeped into groundwater, ponds and streams.

About 22 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 reportedly more than 24 percent.

To date, more than 2 million tons of waste and contaminated soil has been removed, yet Tar Creek is still a long way from being declared safe. Nevertheless, locals remain optimistic they will someday reclaim their community.

"Just removing the chat piles alone could take 30 years if you could move out 100 train car loads each day," Tyler Powell, office director for Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment, told the Tulsa World in 2011. "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.