Infrastructure Funding for Cherokee County Superfund Site | Local news


President Joe Biden’s recently enacted $ 1,000 billion infrastructure deal will help fund a cleanup of a Superfund site in Cherokee County, Kansas caused by lead mining and zinc in the area.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced its intention to fund new clean-up projects at 49 Superfund sites on the national priority list using funds from the Infrastructure Act. A $ 1 billion investment from the law will go to unfunded Superfund sites and speed up cleanup at other sites across the country.

EPA’s Superfund program is responsible for cleaning up some of the country’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.

The Cherokee County Superfund site is a mining area covering approximately 410 square miles. It is located in the former Tri-State Mining District, which encompasses Cherokee County in Kansas, Jasper County in Missouri, and Ottawa County in Oklahoma.

The 49 Superfund sites chosen to receive the first billion dollars were part of a backlog of projects awaiting additional funding – some for more than four years. More than 60% of the sites are located in historically underserved communities, EPA administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement.

“Communities near many of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned contamination releases will finally get the protections they deserve,” he said.

The $ 1 billion investment is the first wave of bipartisan infrastructure bill funding of $ 3.5 billion to help clean up polluted Superfund sites in communities. The backlog of previously unfunded sites that will now receive funding is in 24 states and territories and in all 10 regions of the EPA.

“Each year, the EPA makes a list of the Superfund sites they want to spend money on, rates them and prioritizes them based on a number of different metrics,” said Todd Campbell, patch project manager. for EPA region 7. “One of the things we said when setting priorities was that we would like to get more funding to continue working in Cherokee County.

“Once they realized that this infrastructure bill was going to generate additional funds, we were allowed to begin planning additional work in Cherokee County. “

Site context

The tri-state mining district spanned approximately 2,500 square miles and was once one of the richest lead and zinc deposits in the world.

Tailings from more than a century of mining cover more than 4,000 acres in southeastern Kansas and have contaminated groundwater with lead, zinc and cadmium. One of the sites where mine water surfaces is in Tar Creek, Oklahoma.

Records show that the Cherokee County Superfund site was added to the national priority list in September 1983.

The financing of the law on infrastructure will make it possible to continue the sanitation works and to launch new sanitation works in new areas of the site. Campbell said they had been working on cleanup projects in Cherokee County for several years.

The EPA has designated nine operational units, or OUs, at the Cherokee County site for cleanup activities due to the location of mining and shredding waste and the location of mining operations.

“Most recently, we’ve been working on OU3, which is Baxter Springs, and OU4, which is Treece,” Campbell said. “The remaining work in Cherokee County has been planned for the future, but this infrastructure bill allows us to get money to start work in a few areas that probably should have waited until later due to the funding and resources. For example, OU8, which would be the railway lines. We can start working on this as soon as possible.

Materials such as cat remains from mining have historically been used to build railway lines. Campbell said they aim to clean up some of the OU8 rail lines by the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2022, with the additional funding provided for by law.

Across the site, more than 13 million cubic meters of mine waste has been cleaned up on more than 2,800 acres; over 800 residential yards were cleaned; and more than 500 households have been supplied with continuous drinking water.


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