EPA reimburses five towns in the Tar Creek Superfund site

Wednesday, October 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI, Okla. (AP) _ The Environmental Protection Agency is reimbursing five northeast Oklahoma communities in the Tar Creek Superfund Site $5.6 million for damages done by heavy trucks during yard remediation projects.

The money awarded last week will help Cardin, Commerce, North Miami, Picher and Quapaw fix roads damaged as trucks hauled lead-contaminated soil from hundreds of lawns, schools and playgrounds. More soil remediation is scheduled to begin next spring.

The towns fall within the 40-square-mile area, where decades of lead and zinc mining left behind sinkholes and acid drainage. The environmental problems turned Tar Creek, for which the site is named, into a rust-colored stream that cannot support aquatic life.

Picher will receive the most money, getting $2,303,178. Commerce will get $1,614,433; Quapaw will receive $945,438; North Miami will get $500,966 and Cardin will get $262,499. Some leaders say the funds are needed to bolster town coffers.

``I want to get the money in the bank as quick as possible,'' said Mickey Johnson, the city clerk of Quapaw.

Council members there recently received word their town will be unable to meet the Nov. 2 payroll. Last week, council members agreed to cut back employee hours and ask residents for contributions in an effort to keep the town afloat.

Johnson said she understood from the city attorney that the money was only to be used for road repairs, although interest could be used elsewhere.

``We need to know for certain,'' Johnson said.

Picher City Clerk Bill Hunt said the town will buy new road equipment with part of its settlement.

Bob Sullivan, a project manager for the superfund site, said what the city does with the money is up to city leaders.

``The money can be used for direct or indirect costs,'' Sullivan said.

The Ottawa County Commission received $2,808,646 from the EPA in March 2000 for the damage done to county roads.