The Tar Creek Mine Environmental Disaster

2796 Words 12 Pages
The tar creek mining site originally was owned by a Native American tribe, the Quapaw. The Quapaw wanted to keep these lands, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs deemed members opposing a transaction to mining companies “incompetent” (1). In such a case the business could continue and the Bureau of Indian Affairs sold the lands to mining companies. In essence these lands were stolen from the Quapaw because they were ripe for mining. These mines were then used from approximately 1891 to 1970. In the 79 years the mines were open 1.7 million metric tons (~3.75 billion pounds) of lead and 8.8 million metric tons (~19.4 billion pounds) of zinc were withdrawn from the mine (2). The entire area around Tar Creek is known as the tri-state mining …show more content…
Once these mines were abandoned water slowly began to fill these mines. The water came in contact with all of the leftover minerals, including sulfide, and chemicals began to dissolve into the water. This process of dissolving chemicals into the water essentially turned the water into acid (1). Once the mines finally filled, water began to pour out of the mines into the surrounding area, mostly into a body of water now known as “Tar Creek” (1). This creek then spread the contaminated water throughout the community and into numerous water sources.
Tar creek was finally put on the National Priority List for the Environmental Protection Agency in 1983 as the highest ranking priority (6). The project was originally considered to only be a water contamination issue, but later high levels of blood lead were discovered. This area was deemed a superfund site, which was 40 square miles that contained five towns around the Tar Creek area (6). The estimated cost of this project ranges from $540 million to a hefty $61 billion (5). The Tar Creek Superfund Project is located in northeastern Oklahoma. It covers parts of Picher, Cardin, Quapaw, North Miami, and Commerce (4). Picher was a small town with a population of around 20,000 people (6). Tar Creek is slowly bringing the town of Picher to its knees. During the 1990’s a study found that the
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