EPA and Tribal Officials Revisit Tar Creek Superfund Site

EPA officials were back at Oklahoma’s Tar Creek Superfund site this week, touring the northeast corner of the state as part of a Tribal Lands Forum conference held in Tulsa.

Participants discussed progress with the site and future goals for the continuing cleanup, according to a release from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 6 office in Dallas.

The site of former lead and zine mines that have been abandoned for decades in Ottawa County, Tar Creek is one of the nation’s oldest and most complex Superfund sites.

Among those attending the tour was Albert “Kell” Kelley, senior advisor to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt specializing in land revitalization, as well as Jane Nishida, acting associate administrator for the Office of Indian and Tribal Affairs; Ken Wagner, senior advisor to the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for regional and state affairs; Sam Coleman, acting regional administrator; Sarah Greenwalt, policy advisor to the administrator on cross-cutting issues; Felicia Wright, acting direct of the American Indian Office; and Jessica Snyder, tribal program coordinator in the Office of Land and Emergency Management.

“People from all across the country count on the Superfund program to address pollution and revitalize their communities,” said Albert “Kell” Kelley. “Tar Creek cleanup is an excellent example of how the program should work. State and local partners, Tribal partners, and EPA – all working together year-after-year to address historical pollution at this mega-site. It’s cooperative federalism working at its best.”

Tar Creek, a former lead and zinc mine in Ottawa County, Okla., is one of the nation’s oldest and most complex Superfund sites. In addition to addressing mining waste and other environmental issues within the site, EPA’s work has also included cleanup of nearby residential properties and job training for area residents. EPA has joined with partners from the state of Oklahoma and the Quapaw Tribe throughout the cleanup process, with the tribe and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality handling much of the oversight and cleanup work today.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is planning a fall cleanup project at the site. DEQ Project manager Brian Stanila says the agency plans to sample residential properties for lead contamination. If it determines that property needs to be remediated, property owners will be contacted.