Study finds mold in homes in Tar Creek areas

Tuesday, April 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MIAMI, Okla. (AP) _ A study by a University of Tulsa student found that some homes in a 40-square-mile area polluted by mining waste have high levels of mold.

Residents in the region included in the Tar Creek Superfund site believe efforts to clean up residue left over from decades of lead and zinc mining operations have led to flooding around some homes.

``Since the EPA's been in here, they really messed up on my parents' house. We had to scrape off the mold,'' Arlene McNeely said of the Environmental Protection Agency at a meeting on Monday.

``I'll tell you how bad it is: The mailman won't even deliver the mail when it rains because he doesn't want to have to wade through the standing water.''

TU professor Estelle Levetin recommended pre-med student Micah Burch take air samples from 18 homes in Cardin, Miami and Picher after hearing residents' complaints.

Burch said some homes were heavily contaminated with a toxic mold that is shown to cause allergic reactions.

``I'm really not surprised at all about the number of homes he discovered with high levels of mold,'' said Ed Keheley, an adviser to the Tar Creek Basin steering committee and a retired nuclear engineer. ``I think it's a potentially serious problem.''

Keheley said some residents are so poor they can't afford to pay for repairing the moldy interiors of their homes.

In the study, Burch tried to link the high level of mold to health conditions such as asthma, but said he could not.

Burch said the link could be missing because the sample size was small and because some people are sensitive to mold while others are not. A more thorough study in which blood samples are taken and more homes are included would be needed, he said.

McNeely said she thinks the flooding and the mold must be related.

``People in Picher hardly ever got sick before. Just the usual colds and flu,'' she said.

In trying to clean up the mining waste, the EPA has been digging up yards to remove the soil. Workers put down a clay liner and covered it with new soil.

The clay kept water from seeping into the soil and pools of water formed around homes, Keheley said.

He said EPA officials reported they logged more than 200 complaints related to faulty drainage, and about 90 are still open.