Project under way to cap off open mine shafts at Tar Creek site

Wednesday, January 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

QUAPAW, Okla. (AP) -- When the federal government finished a $50 million Super fund cleanup of the Tar Creek site in northern Ottawa County, state officials said one big hazard was left behind: 700 gaping mine shafts that dotted the area. Now a project is under way to cap at least some of the holes on the 40-square-mile site, beginning with three hole-fillings this week.

Wanda Radford owns nearby land with her husband, Sherm. She said she is sure the couple has lost a few cows to the open pits and is surprised nothing more serious has happened. "It's dangerous," she said. "I can't believe there's not more accidents involving children."

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is putting up $13,700 for the project while the Grand Gateway Economic Development Authority is overseeing it. It will be a slow and expensive process, officials said. With each hole costing about $3,000 to cap off, DEQ coordinator Marvin Boatright said it may take an effort from the Legislature to get the money to finish all 700 holes. "The first three holes are done with DEQ money," Boatright said. "The rest, we don't know."

Boatright said if all goes right, organizers hope to eventually tackle 25 mine-shaft openings at a time and get to a hole right next to the Picher Public Schools' athletic fields by springtime.