RESEARCHERS to conduct air-particle study of Tar Creek area

Saturday, July 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PICHER, Okla. (AP) _ Researchers from the University of Oklahoma and a tribal organization said they will conduct an air-particle study at 30 homes near the Tar Creek Superfund site.

The federal government has been cleaning up the lead-contaminated area for two decades. The air-particle research could show how successful those efforts have been.

The study by OU and Tribal Efforts Against Lead begins Aug. 1. Researchers will test air quality at 30 homes in Picher and Cardin.

``The study is to discover the effectiveness of the Environment Protection Agency's remediation work and the effects on the indoor air in the homes in the area along with the tribe's efforts to educate families about the hazards of lead,'' said Mary Happy, Environment Services Coordinator with the Miami Tribe.

A 40-mile area that includes Picher, Cardin, Quapaw, Commerce and North Miami contained lead and zinc mines during much of the 20th century. When the mines closed in the 1960s, mining companies left behind sinkholes and acid drainage.

The environmental problems turned Tar Creek into a rust-colored stream that cannot support aquatic life. The area has been designated a Superfund site by the EPA.

Happy said indoor air monitoring and exterior soil sampling will be sent to the university as part of the study.

``Each home will be outfitted with a negative pressure door that will pull air from the outside into the home,'' she said.

Dust pipes in the homes will show how much lead is coming inside the houses.

The study is expected to take two years, with 30 more homes to be tested in 2002, Happy said.

Two earlier dust studies, done by the EPA in 1982 and in 1995, showed dust exceeded the recommended standards for air quality.

The EPA has spent more than $77 million to clean up the area.

A Tar Creek Task Force Report released last year estimates the cost to clean up could climb to $500 million.