City employees wil remove lead contamination from Miami parks

Tuesday, February 3rd 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI, Okla. (AP) _ City employees here will remove lead contamination from seven city parks over the next 30 days.

The Miami City Council approved the state-financed $1.03 million plan on Monday. The funding will come as part of matching funds for a larger $45 million federally funded remediation project intended to clean up areas on the perimeter of the 43 square-mile Tar Creek Superfund site.

The site is contaminated with an estimated 75 million tons of metal-laden mining waste and dotted with sinkholes and open mine shafts that create the risk of soil collapses. Acid mine waste has drained into area waterways, turning Tar Creek orange.

The project will reduce the size of the site to 16 square miles, but do little for Picher and Cardin residents who live at the center of the former mining district.

``There are a lot of different opinions about what should be done in the Superfund site,'' City Manager Michael Spurgeon said. ``We see stories in the newspapers and on television almost every day about Tar Creek and with this plan we have different agencies working together to come up with a solution. That is something positive.''

Spurgeon said he and other city officials began talking with Environmental Protection Agency and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality officials about how to remove and dispose of lead found in small areas of city parks in May.

It was decided that city public works employees will do the clean up work and haul about 18,000 cubic yards of waste to a 40-acre repository in Commerce.

Disposing of the waste there will trim about $100,000 from the cost of the project.

Residents and local government officials have been critical of work done by EPA contractors in the Superfund site, where the federal and state governments have spent $110 million on cleanup efforts, mostly yard remediations that have averaged $71,000 per yard.

``We think this is going to be a much more cost-effective way to do this project,'' said Mary Jane Calvey, the DEQ's program manager for Tar Creek.

Workers will submit to blood tests before they begin working on the project and will be periodically re-tested as it progresses, City Engineer Jerry Ruse said.

There is a moderate risk that workers could ingest or inhale lead, so they will be offered dust masks, eye protection, disposable coveralls and boots while they work, Ruse said.

Workers will have to wash in a special pool before leaving the site, Ruse said.

Lead will be removed from areas where levels exceed 500 parts per million. They will also pave parking lots where gravel-like chat was brought from the Superfund site and spread.

The parks are the Joe Pollock Athletic Complex; the Joe Booth Sports Complex; the Rotary Park along Circle Drive; the city-owned Ottawa County Fairgrounds on U.S. 69; Riverview Park along the Neosho River; the Business and Professional Womens Park and the Wayne Pack Park.

Lead contamination in the parks apparently comes from the use of mining waste as fill material in projects in the parks.

None of the parks where remediation projects are planned are within the Superfund site, but EPA rules allow work anywhere in Ottawa County where mining waste has been spread.