L.E.A.D. Agency and citizens held a meeting on Thursday evening at the Miami Civic Center to discuss the current phase of the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

MIAMI— Local Environmental Action Demanded (L.E.A.D.) Agency and citizens held a meeting on Thursday evening at the Miami Civic Center to discuss the current phase of the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

A Technical Assistance Services for Communities (TASC) representative presented a report in layman’s terms on the Remedial Investigation Data Gap Summary Report for Operable Unit 5 (OU5). The TASC Program aims to help people better understand the complexities of environmental issues in order to allow community involvement in the environmental decision-making process.

The Tar Creek Superfund Site is divided into 5 Operable Units. OU5 is defined as sediments and surface water that may be impacted by historical mining activities in perennially flowing creeks, streams and rivers within the Oklahoma portion of the Tri-State Mining District.

Affected creeks include Elm Creek, Tar Creek, Lytle Creek, Neosho River, Beaver Creek, Lost Creek and Lower Spring River (portion of spring River downstream of Empire Lake in Kansas and ending at the headwaters of Grand Lake o' the Cherokees). Also included is one upstream background reference area unaffected by historical mining activities: Four Mile Creek. The EPA is currently investigating these areas.

Technical Advisor Terrie Boguski was hired through the (TASC) Program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to present an analysis of the data gaps in surface water contaminants.

Janetta Coats, EPA Senior Community Involvement Coordinator (CIC), introduced the community to TASC and found Boguski as the consultant for this site.

The Superfund Process

Bugoski began her PowerPoint presentation defining the term Superfund and where it originated.

The Superfund Process has 9 steps for complete remediation. Step 1 begins with a preliminary assessment and site inspection (PA/SI) which advances to Step 2, the National Priorities List (NPL) listing process. NPL is a listing of the most hazardous sites in the United States, Boguski said.

“There’s a process, a public process, that a site goes through,” Boguski said. “Tar Creek Superfund Site has completed the NPL process and has been divided into 5 Operable Units. Each Operable Unit is going through this process rather separate from each other.”

OU5 is currently in the remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) phase, which is Step 3. The Data Gap Summary Report Boguski presented is part of the RI. According to Boguski, the EPA is sampling and analyzing areas to determine the nature and extent of the contamination.

“(The EPA will be asking) what contaminants are there, what concentrations and how spread out are they, where are they found,” Boguski said. “The remedial investigation goes hand-in-hand with the feasibility study (Step 3). That is an analysis of technologies and clean up options for how the site might be remediated.”

After the RI/FS, EPA recommends a proposed plan and remedy for OU5. The proposed plan is then presented for public comment. The comments and responses will become part of the public record.

“Once a proposed plan goes through the public comment period, EPA may or may not revise their remedy based on comments,” Boguski said. “Then, you move onto the next step, which is the Record of Decision (ROD) (Step 4). It is a legally binding document that outlines how that operable unit or how the site is going to be cleaned up or remediated. Once you get to a ROD, you’re kind of on a path towards the cleanup. That doesn’t mean it will go a lot faster because then you move into the remedial design and remedial action (RD/RA) (Step 5).”

According to Boguski, RD is forecasted by the ROD, which tells how the remedy should be performed. It goes by steps and outlines the safety procedures for workers and how the community will be affected. The RA is the implementation of the design and the construction of the remedy.

“Once the remedy is in place, they’re in the construction completion phase (Step 6),” Boguski said. “Often times, there’s a very long post-construction completion phase (Step 7) because if there’s any contamination left on the site then there’s maintenance of the remedy and monitoring that can happen for a very long time. At some point, some sites are determined to no longer be a threat to human health or the environment and the remedy is in place. Sometimes sites can be delisted, which is the NPL Deletion (Step 8).”

The very last step is reuse (Step 9), which determines the outcome of the contaminated properties. The discussion will begin during the RI (Step 3) because it will explain what the property will be used for.

“The last thing I want to say about the Superfund Site is, anywhere along that pathway, if EPA sees a condition or situation that’s eminently making the situation worse and if it’s not taken care of right away, then they can do something called the removal action,” Boguski said. “There was a removal action at the Tar Creek Superfund Site, and that’s a fast track going through the process to get to a remedy for that piece rather quickly.”

Tar Creek Site-Cleanup Status

OU1: Surface Water/Groundwater- Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) plugging up abandoned wells; OU2: Residential Properties- Community health education, blood lead screenings; OU3: Eagle-Picher Office Complex- Drum removal in Cardin complete; OU4: Chat Piles, Other Mine and Mill Wastes, Smelter Wastes- Cleanup of several distal areas where chat is located have been completed. Work will continue for several years. OU5: Sediment and Surface Water- EPA is evaluating impacts to sediment and surface water throughout the site.

OU5-Cleanup Status

EPA Region 6 and EPA Region 7 are working together to characterize sediment and surface water throughout the Spring and Neosho River basins. Currently, the agency is investigating several creeks and streams upstream of Grand Lake that drain areas heavily impacted by historic lead-zinc mining, including the Neosho and Spring Rivers.

EPA will also evaluate potential cleanup actions if they are needed to reduce risks to the environment and human health, which is the current phase.

OU5 Data Gap Summary Report

The data report is available to the public and can be found on the EPA website. It’s seven chapters long and is part of the remedial investigation (RI) phase. The report explains what data the EPA has and what they need for the RI’s human health risk assessment.

The contaminants can be moving through the environment in three mains ways: water runoff, contaminated areas of soil moving underground and seeping into the creeks and direct mine discharge. Once particulate matter moves into the creeks, some will settle and become layers of contamination on the creek beds, Boguski said.

People can be exposed to the contamination in a number of ways. They can be exposed to the metals by touching the water, touching the sediment, eating the plants and animals that are living in the water and accidentally ingesting it. Boguski said most metals don’t usually transport through the skin, so it has to be an oral ingestion. Metals will bio-accumulate up the food chain and are the main pathways for human exposure.

Identified Data Gaps

Sediment (top foot of creek river bed): Data I needed for Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA). Future data collection will take place from Four-Mile Creek, Elm Creek and Lost Creek, with fish, Asian clam and aquatic plant samples.

Surface Water: No data gaps. Future data collection will occur from areas where fish, Asian clams and aquatic plants are collected.

Mine discharge water: Data is needed for HHRA and RI. Data will be collected from mine discharges flowing into Tar Creek and from discharge areas that may be accessible to people.

Other Data Gaps: Data is needed for HHRA and RI in all watersheds including fish (filets, whole, gutted, head removed, head only) Asian clams (whole clam), bullfrogs (hind legs) raccoons (meat, no organs) and ducks (breast meat) Arrowhead root (tuber only, fine roots only, upper stem/leaves) Duckweed (whole washed plant).

Risk Assessment Comment

If you regularly and consistently eat waterfowl other than duck breast meat, you may want to further discuss EPA’s current intention to consider only opportunistic sampling of duck breast meat.

Remedial Investigation Comment

The sampling plan will analyze cadmium, zinc and lead only. The EPA has indicated that the analysis of other metals will be considered.

Next Steps

EPA is currently developing the sampling plans to cover the data gaps that have been identified, which is part of the RI phase. Remedial investigation characterization report and the HHRA report will be additional RI reports associated with the data. Future reports include the feasibility study and the proposed plan.

To Submit Comments

The EPA has asked for comments on the Data Gap Summary Report to be submitted by the end of Feb. (Tuesday)

Comments can be sent to Janetta Coats, EPA Senior CIC at 214-665-7308 (toll-free: 1-800-533-3508) or via email at coats.janetta@epa.gov

Questions for TASC? Contact Terrie Boguski at 918-780-3328 or via email at tboguski@skeo.com