Project in the works to help restore Tar Creek Superfund site

Saturday, August 9th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PICHER, Okla. (AP) -- A Tar Creek pilot project is under way to help restore land damaged by more than 80s years of mining.

State Sen. Rick Littlefield, D-Grove, state Rep. Larry Roberts, D-Miami, and state Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach met Friday with representatives from the Oklahoma Conservation Commission as they outlined the status of the McNeely Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation project.

The project, whose funds were appropriated from the Rainy Day Fund during the 2002 legislative session, involves about 54 acres in the Tar Creek Superfund site.

The entire Superfund site covers 40 square miles in northeastern Oklahoma.

"Whether people stay or leave the Tar Creek area, something needs to be done to heal the scars of the land," said Mark Harrison, information officer for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.

Decades of zinc and lead mining have resulted in mine collapses, open mine shafts and acid mine water that turned Tar Creek water orange.

Mine tailings or "chat" contain high levels of lead, zinc and cadmium, metals known to be toxic to humans and wildlife.

Two open mine shafts are on the 54-acre site. One is 200 feet deep and the second is 150 feet deep. Also on the land are two sinkholes where mine workings caved in and created 30- to 70-foot-deep holes.

On July 29, crews began moving about 81,000 cubic yards of chat and other residue into the two sinkholes.

The project is expected to be complete by late October at a cost of $334,000.

Crews will fill the open mine shafts with quarry rock, onsite boulders and chat, said Mike Sharp, Reclamation Program system director.

Lead-contaminated chat won't be used, he said.

Chat-filled areas will be capped with at least four feet of clay and topsoil. Poultry litter will be applied to encourage plant growth and the land will be tilled, then planted with grasses and legumes, Sharp said.

Grass will help hold the new topsoil in place and the legumes will help restore nitrogen in the soil to assist in recovery, he said.