Quapaw Tribe Rejects Tar Creek Superfund Settlement from DOJ

“This is an injustice”—Quapaw Tribe Chairman John Berrey.

The Quapaw tribe of Oklahoma is rejecting a $15 million settlement proposed by the Justice Department over the Tar Creek Superfund Site, the largest superfund site in the U.S. Tribal leaders recently made known their stance on the issue.

“The Tar Creek Superfund Site is one of the largest hazardous waste sites in the history of the United States,” said John L. Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw tribe. “The federal government has already spent over $300 million in attempting to clean up the site and it is expected that the full remediation cost will exceed well over $1 billion. However, the Justice Department is requesting court approval to settle the liability of parties responsible for the contamination for only $15 million, and also without providing the public with any justification or information. For the Quapaw tribe and its members, whose lives are impacted by living in and alongside this hazardous waste, this is unacceptable.”

Berrey said the potentially responsible parts for the site will at most contribute $60 million to the cleanup. So his tribe has filed formal comments opposing the DOJ’s settlement plan.

“It would permit the parties to walk away from the damage they caused with only minor financial contributions,” said Berrey. The parties include Doe Run Resources Corp., NL Industries and the U.S. Department of Interior. Under the plan offered by the Justice Department, Doe Run would pay $3.4 million for the cleanup, NL Industries would pay $6.6 million and the Department of Interior would pay $5 million.

“Despite the great significance of this land to the Quapaw tribe, the DOJ and the EPA have excluded the tribe as a key stakeholder from any meaningful dialogue about or input in settlements with the potentially responsible parties,” said Berrey who explained that the tribe learned of the proposed settlement not through direct contact with the Justice Department from from a notice in the Federal Register.

“With the proposed settlement, the Justice Department is allowing the responsible parties to walk away from the damage they caused with only minor financial contributions,” added Berrey. “This result will mean the site will have to be remediated using taxpayer dollars on a year-to-year basis, an approach that will cause the cleanup to be done in some increments and that will take decades to complete. This is an injustice–not only to the Quapaw tribe but also to everyone who lives in the surrounding communities.”


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