Superfund site expansion in Jasper County to have little impact on Joplin

Mar. 25—A recently announced expansion of the Oronogo-Duenweg Mining Belt Superfund site to include all of Jasper County will have more impact on residents in the eastern part of the county than in the Joplin area, a federal official told city officials last week.

Joplin was part of the original Superfund site on the west side of the county. Much of the testing and remediation here has already been done, said Cody McLarty, supervisor of the Mining and Smelting Division of the Superfund site here.

"There's really no change" to Joplin as a result of extending the boundaries of the Superfund site. "The city of Joplin was already within the boundaries. All we did was expand the boundaries to the county lines. We identified that there is mine waste outside of the original Superfund site. so we expanded to allow us to clean that up," McLarty said at a recent meeting of the Joplin City Council.

Expansion will allow the Environmental Protection Agency to offer testing and remediation for heavy metals contamination in the Carthage region.

The boundary expansion into eastern Jasper County was finalized in March, and the EPA has had public meetings in Carthage and other towns to talk about the work. The federal agency also put out updated guidelines for residential soil sampling and remediation on Jan. 17, McLarty said. The EPA will work with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Those operations will include testing residential yards and replacing any contaminated soil found as a result of decades of mining in the region in the late 19th century and through the first half of the 20th century. Another objective is to test groundwater.

"We are continuing a push to sample private wells. We offer free sampling, and if wells have significant metals, then we will provide filtration systems for the property owner. There is no cost to the owner," McLarty said. "We just ask they contact us so we can sample the well and let them know. We are not mandating that for property owners, but we are highly encouraging it."

The EPA also will be sampling the Spring River because the Tri-State Mining District watershed drains into Northeast Oklahoma, which also is a Superfund site because it was heavily contaminated and still subject to a decadeslong cleanup effort involving over 30 million tons of chat.

McLarty said there was remediation work in the area of the old Eagle-Picher smelting site in northwest Joplin. Many yards and playgrounds at residences and childcare centers in south-central Joplin also were tested after the 2011 tornado, which stirred up contamination, particularly where there were homes with mine chat used in the construction of the foundation or crawl space. Soil was replaced in yards that were found to have lead contamination.

Nearly 25 million cubic yards of mining waste have been remediated over thousands of acres over the last few decades within the county Superfund site, according to the EPA, and more than 2,000 residential yards have been remediated. Five hundred homes have been supplied with drinking water. Approximately 14 miles of intermittent stream tributary have been remediated across the site in recent years.

Anyone who wants a yard or well tested in Joplin or in eastern Jasper County may call the EPA at 1-800-223-0425.