EPA to conduct free lead testing in Cherokee County Superfund Site

·2 min read

Sep. 15—The Environmental Protection Agency announced this week it will provide free residential lead testing as part of a "sitewide assessment" in the Cherokee County Superfund Site.

Residents living within the designated site boundaries can have residential yards, private drinking water wells, agricultural land and other areas (such as parks, playgrounds, streams, and mine wastes) tested for heavy metals stemming from longtime lead and zinc mining a century ago.

"Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning," EPA Region 7 Administrator Meg McCollister said in a statement. "As a mom of three kids, I encourage moms and caregivers of young children living within the boundaries of the Cherokee County Superfund Site in southeastern Kansas to act now. You can protect your family from dangerous lead exposure by contacting us to have your yard, drinking water well, and even playground areas tested."

The Cherokee County Superfund Site covers 115 square miles and includes the Kansas portion of the former Tri-State Mining District, which is a 2,500-square-mile area in that also includes mining areas in Jasper County in Southwest Missouri and Ottawa County (Tar Creek) in Northeast Oklahoma.

According to the EPA, parents can obtain no-cost lead testing of their residences and/or other areas of their property by filling out a permission form by contacting EPA at 800-223-0425, or by calling EPA Contractor TetraTech at 620-284-1357.

The $1 trillion infrastructure deal that was signed into law last year is also providing funding for ongoing cleanup in Cherokee County. It is one of 49 Superfund sites on the National Priorities List that received $1 billion in funds under the infrastructure law. The $1 billion is the first wave of funding from the $3.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help clean up polluted Superfund sites in communities.

Records show that the Cherokee County Superfund Site was added to the National Priorities List in September 1983.

Funding from the infrastructure law will continue cleanup work and start cleanup work in new areas at the site.

Throughout the site, more than 13 million cubic yards of mining wastes have so far been cleaned up on more than 2,800 acres; over 800 residential yards have been cleaned up; and over 500 homes have been supplied with a permanent source of clean drinking water. As of last year, the EPA said it had cleaned up approximately 12.9 million cubic yards of mine waste and contaminated soil from the Cherokee County site; and restored 2,747 acres of mined land to beneficial use.