Remediation project planned at Tar Creek

Friday, July 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A plan to restore vegetation to barren areas within the Tar Creek Superfund site will be funded in part with $500,000 from the state's constitutional Rainy Day fund.

The state Department of Environmental Quality and the Conservation Commission have signed an agreement to start a pilot remediation program for the site near Miami. Goals include an evaluation of what types of remediation will work at the 40-square-mile site.

The state's contribution to the project will count as matching funds toward whatever federal money is appropriated, officials said.

The federal government designated Tar Creek as a Superfund site after mining companies shut down in northeastern Oklahoma in the late 1950s.

The companies left behind acid runoff, millions of tons of chat piled in mountains and abandoned mining shafts. Eventually, Tar Creek became the nation's No. 1 Superfund site when cleanup was estimated at $35 million. Cleanup expenses have gone up since.

Gov. Frank Keating would like to see the area turned into wetlands because piecemeal solutions to clean up the contamination have largely failed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started a study on the project earlier this year that is supposed to be done by this fall. Preliminary estimates place the cost at $250 million.

Mike Thralls, executive director of the Conservation Commission, said the agency will provide labor, materials, equipment, subcontractors and the analysis of laboratory samples as its part of the project.

The DEQ will work with the commission to establish work plans, schedules and cost estimates. It will be the main conduit to any federal money that might eventually make its way to the job, he said.

Survey work will begin soon to select remediation sites and cost estimates. Actual work is expected to begin before the end of the year and will need to be completed within two years.

``The only other work out there that has been done is to close off some of the mine shafts,'' Thralls said, ``and we may do some of that here too.''

Scott Thompson, director of DEQ's land protection division, said he is excited about this project because of its possibilities to evaluate various remediation plans.

``We will be doing some things that are noticeable, hopefully, but not in really large areas. We will look at what plants will grow and where any special techniques might be needed.

``But the main thing is to do some thinking about what will work in the real world.''