School enrollment declines expected in Tar Creek area

Thursday, August 11th 2005, 4:53 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI, Okla. (AP) -- Enrollment at Picher-Cardin Elementary School is expected to decrease by more than 25% this year because families have moved away from the Tar Creek Superfund site as part of a state-sponsored buyout.

Superintendent Bob Walker said he expects between 160 and 165 students to begin classes at the elementary school this year, compared to 228 last year.

Enrollment is in decline because of a relocation program that moved 54 families away from a 20-square-mile area around Picher and Cardin that is heavily contaminated with lead and zinc left behind in the form of mine tailings when the last mining operation shut
down in 1970.

Small children are considered most vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead poisoning, including neurological disorders and cognitive and learning disabilities.

The former lead and zinc mining hub has been on the Superfund list for two decades. Its 40 square miles in far northeastern Oklahoma's Ottawa County pose new hazards at every turn -- mine collapses, open mine shafts, acid mine water that stains Tar Creek
orange and mountains of lead-contaminated mine waste.