Stimulus Money Tagged For Tar Creek Cleanup

Wednesday, April 15th 2009, 9:48 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

PICHER, OK-- The president is sticking by his stimulus package, including a half-billion dollars to fix some of America's most toxic waste sites.  At the top of the list is $25 million for the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Ottawa County.

Governor Brad Henry and Senator Jim Inhofe say the money will be used to complete the ongoing buyout of Picher, and speed up the clean-up of hazardous waste.

There's not much left in the tiny town in the northeast corner of the state.  The area has been plagued by problems left over from decades of heavy lead and zinc mining, including pollution that has caused health problems, the threat of cave-ins, and left-over mine waste.

Part of Picher was also destroyed by a tornado last year.

The Environmental Protection Agency has already poured millions into the problem, and there are millions more coming.

"Today's EPA announcement of $25 million in new spending coming to Tar Creek means our relocation and clean-up efforts will be on an accelerated timeline. It's great news to see that we are speeding up the process as we reach the finish line," said Senator Jim Inhofe.

The $25 million in stimulus money will be used to finish relocating the few remaining residents and clean up areas contaminated by lead and zinc.  Natives say the money is welcome, but they remain skeptical about government aid.

"It's a little bit late.  I think it could have helped earlier to clean the place up to where we might have been able to stay," said former Picher resident David Patterson.

Senator Inhofe has now secured a total of $55 million in taxpayer money for the Tar Creek buyout and cleanup.

"This is more good news for the people in the Picher and Cardin areas, and I appreciate Senator Inhofe's leadership on this issue.  This has been a long, difficult process and there will be more challenges ahead, but with the continued support of the Obama administration and other federal, state and local partners, we will complete the relocations in a timely manner," said Governor Brad Henry.

Officials did not say whether or not any more money will be needed.