U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), yesterday applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in cooperation with the state of Oklahoma and the Quapaw Nation, for their release of a draft plan to advance the cleanup of the Tar Creek Superfund site. The strategic plan provides an update on the cleanup progress and outlines how EPA, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the Quapaw Nation, and the Tar Creek community will work to improve progress in addressing mining waste and contamination at the site.
“I consider my effort to address the crisis at Tar Creek one of my most significant accomplishments, and I am glad that the EPA, working with the Quapaw Nation and the State of Oklahoma, is continuing to make it a top priority,” Inhofe said. “This strategic plan is testament to the work between the EPA and stakeholders to further address the site and takes important steps to ramp up the improvement progress and provide the Quapaw Nation with more control of their lands.”
“The continued success of the cleanup at Tar Creek reflects the ongoing, cooperative partnership among EPA, the state of Oklahoma, the Quapaw Nation, and local stakeholders,” said Regional Administrator Anne Idsal. “This plan renews our focus, further propels the cleanup progress, and ultimately achieves greater results for Ottawa County.”
“The Quapaw Nation continues to emphasize the impact cleaning up Tar Creek has on our people and the local community,” said Quapaw Nation Chairman John Berrey. “We look forward to continuing our work with EPA and ODEQ towards bringing back much of this land to pre-mining conditions.”
“We appreciate Administrator Wheeler’s leadership and the attention paid to this deserving site by its placement on the Administrator’s Emphasis List, prompting immediate and intense action at the site. This is just another example of the Trump Administration keeping its promises to the State of Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Ken Wagner. “These funds will allow the partnership between the EPA, the State of Oklahoma, and the Quapaw Nation to continue to make significant progress towards protecting our citizens, restoring our land, and cleaning our waters.”
“ODEQ, alongside our partners at EPA and the Quapaw Tribe, continues to work toward solutions in the Tar Creek area for the betterment of citizens’ lives and the environment,” said Oklahoma DEQ Executive Director Scott Thompson. “The new strategic plan is an important tool to help achieve our goal of a safer, cleaner Oklahoma.”
EPA welcomes public feedback and will take public comment on the Tar Creek Strategic Plan over the next 30 days. The release of the strategic plan fulfills two major milestones identified for the site on the Administrator’s Emphasis List. The first milestone requires identification and evaluation of opportunities to accelerate site cleanup, and the second compels EPA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to work with the Quapaw Nation to establish the tribe’s ability to establish institutional controls on their properties.
The strategic plan will guide this progress with near- and long-term actions. Some near-term cleanup actions include the partial deletion of up to 5,000 acres, amending the 2008 record of decision for mining waste, and issuing a new record of decision for the watersheds. Long-term actions include exploring innovative technologies to expedite the cleanup and identifying additional reuse opportunities. Additionally, the cleanup at the site furthers the commitment EPA made in the Federal Lead Action Plan by managing lead contamination at Superfund sites, thereby reducing exposure to community residents.
EPA will present the draft plan to stakeholders and community members at this week’s Tar Creek meet-and-greet hosted by Local Environmental Action Demanded, Inc. (the L.E.A.D. Agency) and begin gathering comments from the public. Following a review of those comments, EPA intends to release the final Tar Creek Strategic Plan by summer 2019. As the final plan is developed, EPA and state, tribal, and local government partners are committed to continuing to assess and address site contamination and to eliminate, reduce, or manage risks to human health and the environment.
Tar Creek, in Ottawa County, Okla., is one of the nation’s oldest and most complex Superfund sites. For decades, EPA and partners have worked on the site and made progress in the cleanup, but much remains to be done. In 2017, the site was included on the EPA Administrator’s Emphasis List, also known as the Superfund Sites Targeted for Immediate, Intense Action, which is a targeted, dynamic list of Superfund sites that benefit from the direct involvement of the EPA Administrator to make more significant progress on cleanup.
Tar Creek Superfund site webpage: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/tar-creek
For more about EPA’s work in Oklahoma: https://www.epa.gov/ok
For more about EPA’s Federal Lead Action Plan: https://www.epa.gov/lead