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Tar Creek Conference Highlights Work Between Quapaw Tribe & EPA - KOAM TV 7

Tar Creek Conference Highlights Work Between Quapaw Tribe & EPA

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OTTAWA COUNTY, OK -

The Tar Creek Conference kicked off today at Miami, Oklahoma's Coleman Theater. 

One of the clean-up projects highlighted is a first of it's kind partnership between the Quapaw Tribe and the EPA to clean up mining waste on Tribal Lands:

Former Quapaw Tribe Chairman Grace Goodeagle knows well the effects mining has had on her homeland.

"We as children played in Tar Creek, we thought nothing of it then. But in later years it was polluted,” she says.

Her ancestors settled along Spring River. Her mother going to catholic school on grounds now deemed unlivable by the government.

"My family did not realize the impact of what the mining would do to the earth. Once they brought all the chat and stuff to the surface and there were tons of it.”

Mountains of chat are being taken care of by the tribe in an unprecedented agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We negotiated a cooperative agreement with the tribe where they could do the work on their own property. This is important because this is the first cooperative agreement in the nation awarded to a tribe where they actually perform the superfund work on their own property,” says EPA environmental scientist Rafael Casanova.

“Catholic 40,” where Goodeagle's mother went to school, is one of several sites the tribe has successfully remediated, removing close to 108,000 tons of mining waste.

"We're currently doing some soil amendments on that site to see if what we're doing is sequestering it, stabilizing some of these containments of concern in the soil and it's not leaching off into surface water, groundwater,” says Quapaw Assistant Environmental Director Craig Kreman.

The Quapaw tribe hopes all the progress they've been making with the EPA to clean up all these chat piles will help to inspire other tribes to do the same.

"There's some tribes out west, especially out west, a lot of uranium mining that tribes are dealing with out west that are interested in doing some(thing) similar,” says Kreman.

The “Catholic 40” site is still an ongoing project. And the EPA and tribe will monitor the soil for the next four years. During the clean-up, several historic artifacts were found in the chat covering up the former Catholic school.

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