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January 30, 2007


Tulsa World

By World's Editorial Writers
Inhofe secures more Tar Creek funding
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe has made good on his promise to round up more federal funds for the Tar Creek buyout program. If all his efforts at securing more funding are successful, the state will have about $19 million to carry out the voluntary relocation program.
That probably won't be enough to purchase all the properties in the Superfund site, but once a large portion of the affected properties are acquired, there will be strong arguments for finding the additional funds to buy out all those desiring to participate.
As most readers know by now, Tar Creek is the abandoned lead and zinc mining district in Ottawa County that over several decades was the nation's top producer of those substances. But the extensive mining work left the area devastated by contaminated mine wastes and unstable underground caverns. The area has been on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list for more than two decades, and despite more than $100 million in clean-up work, little has been accomplished to resolve the environmental problems.
Several years ago, Gov. Brad Henry succeeded in launching a limited, state-funded buyout program for families with young children, who are most at risk of developing health problems  
from lead exposure.
Meanwhile, Inhofe commissioned a study of the cave-in risk posed by the underground mines. The study determined that many properties in the heart of the mining district, especially in the towns of Picher and Cardin, face the risk of cave-ins.
Armed with that data, Inhofe set about identifying federal funds for a voluntary buyout effort. Recently he was able to free up $8.5 million that had been tied up at the Federal Highway Administration. The senator also plans to try to redirect $3.5 million toward buyouts that had been set aside for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct remediation work.
If Inhofe can succeed in rounding up all that funding, a total of $19 million will be available for buyouts. The committee overseeing the buyouts already has received about $7 million.
It's distressing that residents and business owners had to live in limbo for so long, unable to sell and in many cases improve their properties because of the Superfund stigma. But at least the end to their travails is now in sight.

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