QUAPAW - U.S. Reps. Steve Largent and Brad Carson did not have far to travel Tuesday to tour the No. 1 Superfund site in America - it was in their own back yard.
With cleanup costs escalating to nearly $77 million since 1980, Largent, R-Tulsa, and Carson, D-Claremore, toured the 40-square-mile area known as Tar Creek. Accompanying them were Quapaw Tribe leaders for a close-up view of the area where mountains of lead-mining chat dominate the landscape.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has been cleaning contaminated soil around Ottawa County's Tar Creek since 1995, after results of an Indian Health Services study. That study indicated 35 percent of area children had blood lead levels above the standard set by the Centers for Disease Control.
The cleanup has been criticized by some as being ineffective and a waste of taxpayer money.
"I am on a fact-finding mission," Largent said of his first trip to the area. "I am here to listen and learn. If a simple solution was available, the problem would be solved by now. There is nothing like seeing this first-hand."
Largent was dismayed that the government is spending $25,000 to remove and replace lead-contaminated soil in the yard of a home with far less value.
"We have got to bring some common sense to the table," Largent said.
Largent proposes Superfund reform to combat skyrocketing expenses.
"Between 60 and 70 percent of Superfund monies goes to attorneys," Largent said. "If we had Superfund reform, like with education reform, we would make sure the money goes to the remediation and not litigation."
Carson said that every time a new Oklahoma governor takes office, the cleanup "starts from square one." A plan needs to be in place to solve the problem in two or three years, he said.
Largent and Carson visited homes in the Picher, Cardin and Quapaw area that are going through yard remediation. They also saw orange-colored water that flows under the Tar Creek bridge.
"I am amazed that some people have lived here for 60 years and have never seen Tar Creek clean," Largent said.Archive ID: 852155