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Tar Creek Superfund Site - Ottawa County, OK

Background Information

The Tar Creek Superfund Site is located in Northeastern Oklahoma (Ottawa County), near the Oklahoma-Kansas state line (Figure 1 [PDF - 285 KB]). The site comprises a 40-square mile area and includes the communities of Picher, Cardin, Hockerville, Quapaw, North Miami, and Commerce. From the early 1900s through the late 1970s, Northeastern Oklahoma was mined extensively for lead and zinc ore. The milling process for these materials produced waste mine tailings, known locally as “chat.” 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 Activities

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) released the Public Health Assessment, Occurrence of Selected Health Conditions in Ottawa County, Oklahoma. The assessment addresses health issues relevant to the Tar Creek Superfund Site, including those concerning children and also cancer. The public health assessment (PHA) and a summary fact sheet can be downloaded from the Selected Resources section below.

In November 2006, ATSDR and OSDH hosted public meetings in Miami, Oklahoma, to present their findings from the PHA and to unveil ATSDR’s plan for the Tar Creek Superfund site. The final version of the PHA is now being released after receiving, responding to, and incorporating public comments.

ATSDR and OSDH have encouraged concerned citizens and community groups to participate in the health assessment process. In June 2006, ATSDR held an official tribal consultation with leaders and environmental staff from many of the American Indian nations in the area to address the possible effect on tribal members. From these meetings and those with Local Environmental Action Demanded (L.E.A.D) Agency, a local environmental group, ATSDR developed a plan to investigate such concerns. The plan describes how ATSDR will address nine public health activities at the site and includes the status of each activity. This plan can be downloaded from the Selected Resources section below.

In October 2004, ATSDR released a Report to Congress about the Tar Creek Superfund Site, which assessed trends in children’s lead levels in the area and presented recommendations about how to protect public health.

Selected Resources

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