Tar Creek is considered one of the biggest environmental disasters in the history of the United States. This disaster was created from lead and zinc mining in Northeast Oklahoma. Lead and zinc leftover in chat piles would seep into groundwater, ponds, and lakes contaminating almost all water in the area. The people from small towns in the area such as Cardin and Picher are at high risk for lead poisoning, which can have long term health effects. Tar Creek has been pinpointed as the reason for high levels of learning disabilities in this area.
This area was home to very popular lead and zinc mines during World War 1 and World War 2. “Over the years, the mining companies disposed of the chat by collecting it into large aboveground piles, and by dumping it into flotation or tailing ponds” (ATSDR). Quite often, waste materials from mining were dumped into exploration holes dug out to map mining areas. After the mining had stopped in the 1960’s, the mines flooded and these waste materials began to mix in with the rest of the water that filled the mine.
Eventually, this water reached the surface and formed springs of contaminated water. “Highly contaminated acid mine water began flowing from the mine shafts in Ottawa County Oklahoma in 1979, just as predicted by the miners during the 1950’s and in 1977 by S. J. Playton of the USGS. This acid mine water undoubtedly impacted the aquatic and riparian communities of Tar Creek and other local streams and lakes” (www. tarcreek. org). There have been quite a few remediation efforts that have occurred in the area as a result of the “Oklahoma Plan for Tar Creek”.
Four of the main objectives in remediating Tar Creek are to improve the quality of surface water, minimizing the amount of exposure to lead dust, tending to mine hazards such as sink holes, and just the reclamation of the land as a whole. “This plan effectively establishes more than a discrete set of cleanup projects; it also establishes a longer-term cleanup process. While action is being taken to achieve the preceding objectives, the team is calling for parallel steps by the federal government regarding human health concerns” (www. deq. tate. ok. us).
The government has made attempts to buyout all the homes in hazardous areas and have the people move to safer areas but some were forced to stay because they simply could not afford to move. Tar Creek, being as big of an environmental disaster as it is, is not a very well known issue across the country. There are efforts to make it more widely known to the public such as the production of documentaries, but as a nation, very few people are aware of Tar Creek and the issues it has created for the people of Northeast Oklahoma.
In my opinion, there is a large effort being put forth by different organizations to tend to Tar Creek. Of course there could always be more of an effort put forth by some, but all in all there are things being done to help this area. Many people don’t realize how difficult it is to clean an area like this up. There are millions of tons of chat sitting in piles all over the Tar Creek area. It’s not something you can just load up and haul off. There is a huge amount of it. And even then, where would it be disposed at? There are ways we can make use of the chat. Beneficially using chat according to the finalized criteria will both reduce chat piles and improve human health and the environment in the area” (www. deq. state. ok. us).
I think that the more uses we find for the chat, the better. But even without the chat there, there would still be plenty of issues such as water contamination, another problem that is definitely not easy to fix. With all that being said, there is a lot of work being done to help fix the problem at Tar Creek, but there is still a ton of work left to be done.
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,. (2010, Nov. 12 ). In Tar Creek Superfund Site. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2012, from http://www. atsdr. cdc. gov
- Local Environmental Action Demanded,. (2010, Aug. 19 ). In Tar Creek Information Site. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2012, from http://www. tarcreek. org/
- Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality,. (2010, Jul. 6 ). In Land Protection Division. Retrieved Feb. 7, 2010, from http://www. deq. state. ok. us