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ATSDR’s Plan for the Tar Creek Superfund Site - November 21, 2006



Introduction

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has updated its 2006 plan for the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Ottawa County, Oklahoma.  This update is based on ATSDR’s review of environmental data from the site and on meetings with tribal representatives, Local Environmental Action Demanded (L.E.A.D.) Agency, Inc., and staff from federal, state, and local agencies.  It also informs partners about ATSDR’s goals and activities at the site.

The plan’s goals are to describe public health concerns identified by ATSDR; to determine whether the agency can or will address these concerns; and to identify those reports, if any, ATSDR will prepare and distribute.  This plan will be modified and updated periodically according to the status of ATSDR’s ongoing activities to evaluate public health concerns at the site.

A list of ATSDR staff who will conduct this evaluation can be found in Appendix A, which also contains a map of the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

Public Health Concerns

In August 2006, ATSDR identified nine public health concerns to be addressed:  The concerns include:

  1. The need for tribal consultation with the tribes affected by the Tar Creek Superfund Site;
  2. Fish consumption from the Neosho River and Spring River watershed;
  3. Native food consumption from the Tar Creek Superfund Site;
  4. Health issues among certain children who live in Ottawa County;
  5. Disease and illness in Ottawa County and in the Tar Creek area;
  6. Air quality near chat piles;
  7. Transporting chat;
  8. Environmental contamination from chat piles and mine waste; and
  9. Flooding from the Neosho River and any consequent contamination of parks, particularly Riverview Park.

These public health concerns are summarized in Table 1 and are described in further detail in the subsections that follow.

Table 1: Summary of Health Concerns for the Tar Creek Superfund Site

Project Number

Public Health Concern

Description

Status

ATSDR Staff Lead

Requestor

1

Tribal Consultation

Official meeting with tribal leaders, their representatives, and ATSDR to determine how they will work together and what public health activities  will be addressed

Tribal consultations held July 2006 and Summer 2007

Lyke

ATSDR

2

Fish Consumption

Fish consumption from the Neosho and Spring Rivers watershed resulted in an evaluation of lead contamination in fish from these rivers and the state issuing a fish advisory

Completed --ODEQ report released February 2008* 

Mellard

Tribes

3

Native Food Consumption

Consumption of native wild foods from the Tar Creek Superfund Site and from the Neosho and Spring Rivers watershed

Harvard will collect and analyze native foods

Mellard

Tribes

4

Child Health Issues

Concern for arsenic exposure among some children from Ottawa County was ruled out

Completed -- letters mailed to residents

Mellard

Ottawa Co. Health Department

5

Health Outcome Data

The rate of various diseases and deaths for Ottawa County and the Tar Creek area was evaluated

Completed --Final public health assessment released September 2008

Lopez

Residents

6

Air Quality

Exposure to windblown contaminants from chat piles and its effect on outdoor air quality

Completed -- Reviewed and discussed air data with team members

Mellard

Residents

7

Transporting     
Chat

Exposure to windblown contaminants from roads used by vehicles carrying chat

Ongoing

Mellard

Residents

8

Chat Pile Data Set Review

Review of EPA’s environmental data for chat piles, mine and mill residues, and for smelter waste; determine other possible pathways of exposure

Ongoing

Mellard

ATSDR

9

Riverview Park, Miami

Evaluate sediment data from Neosho River and the potential effect of flooding on Riverview Park and other areas

Ongoing

Mellard

Residents


*  The 2008 ODEQ fish report can be found at this web address: http://www.deq.state.ok.us/csdnew/2007TCFishReport.pdf [PDF - 667 KB]

Other Activities

As ATSDR staff works with residents, tribal leaders, and other agencies, this plan may be revised to add new activities or to describe the final outcome of the 9 activities.  Changes in the plan will be indicated by revised text and date.

Outreach

ATSDR is committed to addressing the public health concerns of residents of the Tar Creek site area.  ATSDR will provide updates to its plan periodically as public health activities are conducted and completed.  To be notified of updates at one of our public meetings, please sign up for our mailing list or notify La Freta Dalton, health communication specialist at 404-498-1743 or LDalton@cdc.gov.  You can also call CDC-INFO toll free at 1-800-232-4636, select option 2, and ask to be transferred to La Freta Dalton.  A CDC-INFO customer service representative will transfer you to an ATSDR operator who will forward your call.  We welcome your comments and involvement in our activities.

Addressing Public Health Concerns

The sections below describe how ATSDR has addressed and will continue to work on the nine public health concerns.

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Tribal Consultation

Background

On June 14, 2006, in Wyandotte, OK, ATSDR hosted an official tribal consultation with the tribes potentially affected by the Tar Creek Superfund Site.  Together, participants developed a plan to address the site’s public health issues.

ATSDR staff presented a draft plan and participants discussed its nine activities identified in the plan. During the meeting, tribal leaders and their representatives expressed various health concerns that were later added to the plan.

Following the meeting, ATSDR established a Tar Creek health team, which now consists of the following representatives:

  • Cherokee Nation
  • Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Miami Nation
  • Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
  • Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Wyandotte Nation
  • L.E.A.D. Agency, Inc.,
  • Tribal Environmental Management Services,
  • Ottawa County Health Department,
  • Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality,
  • Oklahoma State Department of Health,
  • US Environmental Protection Agency,
  • Indian Health Service,
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • Harvard University,
  • Oklahoma University, and
  • University of Kansas.

The team enables ATSDR staff to work closely with partners while evaluating and completing plan activities. The team began conference calls in July 2006 and currently has them every other month.

Update

In the summer of 2007, ATSDR held a second tribal consultation through a series of conference calls to address health concerns about the consumption of native foods and the use of native plants.  The outcome of this consultation is described in the native food section of this plan.

Next Steps

ATSDR will continue to hold bi-monthly conference calls to monitor the Tar Creek health team’s progress in performing the activities described in this plan.

Accomplishments

To date, ATSDR has held two official tribal consultations.  The first one took place in June 2006 and the second one was held in Summer 2007 as a series of conference calls to discuss concerns about native foods and plants.

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Fish Consumption

Background

Ottawa County residents requested that ATSDR evaluate the available fish data from the Neosho and Spring Rivers watershed to determine whether the fish were safe to eat.  They were also concerned about eating fish from ponds within the boundaries of the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

In 2002, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) evaluated fish samples from ponds in the Tar Creek Superfund Site and from the Neosho and Spring Rivers down to Twin Bridges State Park and presented its findings and recommendations in a report.  The Tar Creek health team reviewed the ODEQ report and agreed with its findings. The report can be found at http://www.deq.state.ok.us/LPDnew/Tarcreek/GovrTaskForce/TarCreekFishReport.pdf [PDF - 1.01 MB].

Update

The team evaluated the available fish data and forwarded recommendations to ODEQ in spring 2007 concerning the collection of future fish samples.  Members were particularly concerned about fish in Grand Lake of the Cherokees and about consuming paddlefish.

In February 2008, ODEQ released its second report on fish collected as part of the Tar Creek Superfund activities.  Fish were collected from mill ponds near Picher and Cardin, the Neosho and Spring Rivers, and the Grand Lake of the Cherokees.  ODEQ’s report is available at http://www.deq.state.ok.us/csdnew/2007TCFishReport.pdf [PDF - 667 KB] with a news release containing plain-language recommendations at:  http://www.deq.state.ok.us/mainlinks/media/08news/feb/TarCreekFishAdvisory.pdf [PDF - 230 KB].

ODEQ held a conference call with the Tar Creek health team on March 13, 2008, to discuss the report.  They also held a public meeting in Miami, OK, on March 18, 2008, to discuss the report and to provide information about the fish advisory.

Next Steps

This activity is complete.  No further action is needed.

Current or Expected Products

ODEQ issued a final report in February 2008 and issued a fish advisory for the Tar Creek Superfund area.

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Native Foods Consumption

Background

Ottawa County residents were concerned about eating native wild foods collected from the Tar Creek Superfund Site and from other areas in their county, particularly along the Neosho and Spring Rivers watershed.

During ATSDR’s tribal consultations, participants discussed consuming wild foods.  Many raised concerns about the confidentiality of some native foods as well as other concerns, such as

  • Plants growing in the flood plain of the Neosho and Spring Rivers,
  • Field crops,
  • Plants used in native remedies,
  • Plants used in arts and crafts, and
  • Game such as deer and turkey.

Update

ATSDR held a tribal consultation in summer 2007 via a series of conference calls to discuss concerns about native foods and plants.  Staff from Harvard University agreed to work with the tribes to collect native plants for metals analysis.

Next Steps

Once Harvard University staff have collected and analyzed native foods, they will share the information with the tribes who will decide whether to seek ATSDR’s assistance in evaluating the public health significance of the data.

Current or Expected Products

An ATSDR report of this activity is unlikely because of confidentiality issues about native plants and customs.

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Child Health Issues

Background

Ottawa County contacted ATSDR in 2006 about several children with failure to thrive. Residents and parents were concerned that exposure to metals from the Tar Creek Superfund Site might be responsible. The children were seen by a physician in Tulsa, Oklahoma who met with ATSDR staff in June 2006 to discuss the cases.

Activities Update

In March 2007, an ATSDR physician and toxicologist met with the parents of three families from Ottawa County to obtain information about their familial and environmental histories. ATSDR identified the street addresses of the families so that staff could examine soils data and evaluate the potential for exposure to metals from the Tar Creek Superfund Site. After reviewing the medical records and family and environmental histories, ATSDR staff wrote confidential letters to each family about their child’s failure to thrive. The agency found no link between the children’s failure to thrive and metals from the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

Next Steps

This activity is complete. No further action is needed.

Current and Expected Products

ATSDR sent letters to three families in August 2007. No other products are expected.

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Health Outcome Data Review

Background

L.E.A.D. Agency released a health survey in 2004 indicating that some Ottawa County residents were more susceptible to certain diseases.  In discussing the survey, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) agreed to work with ATSDR and jointly review available health outcome data. Both agencies worked with L.E.A.D. Agency to identify the diseases and health conditions to be covered in the review.

Update

In November 2006, ATSDR and OSDH released the Public Health Assessment, Occurrence of Selected Health Conditions in Ottawa County, Oklahoma and held a public meeting to discuss its findings and recommendations.

In general, ATSDR and OSDH found that the health status of Ottawa County residents was similar to that of other Oklahoma residents.  Staff evaluated the following health conditions: birth weight, birth defects, newborn hearing, autism, learning disabilities, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, stroke, cholesterol, hypertension, and coronary heart disease.  They found a small increase in the number of deaths from heart attacks in Ottawa County compared to the rest of the state.  This difference might be due to chance variation.

Next Steps

ATSDR and OSDH will meet with L.E.A.D. Agency and the tribes to discuss the possibility of more focused health studies.

Current or Expected Products
  • The Public Health Assessment, Occurrence of Selected Health Conditions in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, was released in November 2006 for public comment. 
  • The final report was released in September 2008.

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Air Quality

Background

Ottawa County residents were concerned about their air quality due to windblown contaminants from chat piles. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Harvard University have collected air quality data for Ottawa County focusing on evaluating lead and particulate levels in the Tar Creek Superfund area.  ATSDR will obtain these data and will evaluate its public health significance.

Update 

ATSDR is compiling environmental data collected by Harvard University and EPA.  Staff will evaluate these data and determine the feasibility of a public health assessment focused on air quality.  

Next Steps

  • ATSDR is summarizing air quality data collected from Harvard University and EPA and will present its evaluation to the Tar Creek health team.
  • The Tar Creek health team will review available air quality data and will decide the feasibility of a public health assessment on air quality.

Current or Expected Products

A decision will be made at a later date whether a public health assessment focused on air quality issues will be released.

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Transporting Chat

Background

Ottawa County residents are concerned about breathing windblown contaminants from roads covered with chat.  They are also concerned about breathing windblown contaminants from trucks loaded with chat.

Update

ATSDR will meet with EPA and other agencies or institutions to determine what data are available on windblown contaminants from roads and from trucks carrying chat.  ATSDR will decide the feasibility of a public health assessment focused on airborne chat transport.

Next Steps

  • ATSDR will meet with technical staff from EPA, Oklahoma state government, and other agencies and institutions currently monitoring air quality in the Tar Creek area.
  • The Tar Creek health team will identify and review air data associated with chat transportation.
  • The Tar Creek health team will decide the feasibility of a public health assessment focused on chat transportation.

Current or Expected Products

A decision will be made in 2009 whether a public health assessment focused on air quality issues will be released.

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Reviewing Environmental Data from Chat Piles

Background

EPA has collected environmental data as part of operable unit 4 (OU4), which involves  investigating chat piles, the mine and mill residues, and smelter waste.

Update 

ATSDR and the Tar Creek health team will review these data to determine whether residents are currently exposed to hazardous waste from the Tar Creek Superfund Site.  The agency will determine whether a human exposure pathway has been overlooked and whether they or other federal, state, or local agencies should investigate further.

Next Steps

  • ATSDR will identify and review data from OU4.
  • The Tar Creek health team will evaluate human pathways of exposure.
  • The Tar Creek health team will review the data to determine whether anyone is currently being exposed to contaminants via a pathway that was previously overlooked.

Current and Expected Products

A decision will be made in 2009 whether a public health assessment focused on other pathways will be released.

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Riverview Park, Miami

Background

An Ottawa County resident was concerned about contaminated sediments deposited on surface soil at Riverview Park, Miami.

Update

ATSDR will evaluate available data on sediment and soil from the Neosho River watershed to determine whether flooding onto Riverview Park created a health hazard.  The agency will also assess other areas along the river where people might be exposed to flood-deposited sediment.  This evaluation may lead to a public health assessment focused on sediment contamination in public parks and other areas.

Next Steps 

  • ATSDR will determine whether sediment data from the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies are adequate for public health purposes.
  • The Tar Creek health team will review sediment data from the Neosho River watershed.
  • The Tar Creek health team will determine whether a pathway of exposure connects humans to sediments deposited by Neosho River flooding onto Riverview Park and other areas.
  • The Tar Creek health team will decide the feasibility of a public health assessment focused on areas where flood water might deposit contaminated sediment.

Current and Expected Products

A decision will be made in 2009 whether a public health assessment focused on air quality issues will be released.

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Comments or Questions?

Your comments and questions concerning ATSDR’s plan are welcome.  You can direct them to Ms. Jennifer Lyke at ATSDR’s Dallas regional office (214-665-8362, JLyke@cdc.gov) or to Dr. David Mellard in Atlanta (770-488-0727 or toll-free at 1- 800-232-4636, DMellard@cdc.gov).

Please call Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time. You may leave a message if you call after business hours.  Someone will return your call as soon as possible. When calling ATSDR’s toll-free number, please ask to be transferred to David Mellard with ATSDR.

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Appendix A.  The ATSDR Team

La Freta Dalton
Health Communication Specialist, ATSDR, Atlanta

Sandra López 
Public Health Advisor, ATSDR, Atlanta

Jennifer Lyke
Public Health Advisor, ATSDR, Dallas

Dr. David Mellard
Toxicologist, ATSDR, Atlanta

Terica Scott 
Health Communication Specialist, ATSDR, Atlanta

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