DEQ to host an open session in Miami Tuesday, Aug. 15 about upcoming residential yard remediations with time allotted for questions.

MIAMI - Residents of Ottawa County will have an opportunity for direct interaction with representatives of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at an open meeting Tuesday, Aug. 15.

The public session will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ottawa County Courthouse Annex located at 123 E. Central Ave., in Miami to discuss upcoming Tar Creek Superfund Site residential yard and high access area cleanups.

DEQ representatives will share information about upcoming residential remediation work and future sampling in the area with time allotted for questions.

Tar Creek OU2

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) divides Superfund Sites into what are known as Operable Units (OUs) to manage oversight and remediation activities more efficiently on complex environmental projects.

The Oklahoma Tar Creek Superfund Site is divided into five OUs. The Aug. 15 meeting will focus on OU2 which includes properties in Miami, North Miami, Afton, Commerce, Fairland, Narcissa, Peoria, Quapaw, and Wyandotte.

Cleanup is accomplished by removing and replacing lead contaminated soil and chat from residential properties, according to DEQ.

The Tar Creek Superfund site was formerly home to the world's largest lead and zinc mines. Located in the northern portion of Ottawa County it is part of the Tri-State Mining District located at the junction of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri, according to DEQ.

Close to a century's worth of mining at the Tar Creek Superfund Site left behind large amounts of contaminated waste, such as chat, once mining ceased. The area was declared a Superfund site in 1983.

"When the mining eventually stopped, huge volumes of waste, including chat, were left on the ground," explained a recent DEQ press release about the Tar Creek Superfund Site. "Due to the widespread practice of using chat as general fill material, lead contamination is common throughout Ottawa County and has contributed to human health and environmental concerns in the area."

Progress so far

According to the EPA, the final phase of work to clean up lead contaminated residential driveways, yards, public alleyways, and parks within the Tar Creek Superfund started in 2010.

The EPA reports that since September 2010, 576 properties and approximately 2,887 residential yards and public properties in Ottawa County have been cleaned up.

The agency also says to date, more than 2.15 million tons of mine and mill wastes and contaminated soil have been removed from properties in distal areas, and more than 570 acres of land have been cleaned up and made available for future reuse.

Quapaw Tribe

In 2012, a Cooperative Agreement was signed between EPA and the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma to perform cleanup work at the "Catholic 40," a 40-acre tract of land owned by the tribe that includes remnants of a Catholic Church and school constructed in 1893.

The remedial action involved the excavation, hauling, and disposal of approximately 107,000 tons of contaminated material from the Catholic 40 and bank stabilization of Beaver Creek, both of which have cultural and historical significance to the Quapaw Tribe.

The agreement also designated the Quapaw Tribe as the first to lead and manage cleanup of a federal Superfund site.

In February, the Quapaw Tribe announced completion of the Beaver Creek Unrestricted Tier 1 Project within the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Quapaw. Working with the EPA and DEQ the tribe successfully remediated tribal and private land near Beaver Creek.

Most recently, the Quapaw Tribe was awarded over $4 million in funding from the EPA in May that will be used to continue remediating contaminated soils from tribal lands.

For more information about the Tar Creek Superfund Site, contact Brian Stanila, DEQ Project Manager, at 405-702-5138 or Ramsey Mauldin, DEQ Project Manager, at 405-702-5129.

Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor for the Miami News-Record. Contact her at dballard@miaminewsrecord.com and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.