Treece, Kan., Residents Will Get Relocation Help

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a modification of the cleanup plan for the Tar Creek Superfund site in Oklahoma that will help Treece, Kan., residents relocate from the area.

“Coping with this legacy of pollution has been an extraordinary challenge for this community. It's important that they have the support of their government, and we're happy to be able to offer assistance as they relocate to a safer, healthier place,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We hope this marks the beginning of a new chapter of health and prosperity for the families of Treece.”

After several senior EPA officials visited Treece last year, Jackson determined that residents face a unique and urgent threat from the legacy of pollution related to lead mining. Residents of neighboring Picher, Okla., which faced similar challenges and is also part of the Tar Creek Superfund site, were relocated starting in June of 2008.

On October 29, 2009, Congress provided EPA with an exemption from the Uniform Relocation Act, thereby allowing for the relocation of Treece residents. As a result, EPA identified relocation as the primary option for Treece residents due to similar environmental challenges to those faced by immediately adjacent Oklahoma residents. This announcement is the next step toward making relocation arrangements.

On Jan. 13, EPA sent a letter to the state of Kansas on the status of potential relocation of Treece residents, outlining several steps the state of Kansas had to take. Those steps include:

  • Meeting the state’s 10 percent share of the relocation cost and preparing to assume responsibility for the bought-out land;
  • Developing a plan for implementing the buyouts;
  • Holding public meetings to ensure residents are informed about the relocation process.

EPA offered to help the state carry out these actions, and offered to make $300,000 available to help Kansas take these steps once a final determination is made. The voluntary relocation assistance will be provided by the State of Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The estimated number of properties being considered is approximately 77 residential and business properties.

Copies of the Superfund Explanation of Significant Differences for the Record of Decision: Tar Creek Superfund Site Operable Unit 4, Ottawa County, Oklahoma, April 2010, are available at the Miami Public Library in Miami, Okla., and the Johnston Public Library in Baxter Springs, Kansas.

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