Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Update on Treece, Kansas

I wrote in an earlier post about the plight of the residents of Treece, Kansas, population 149. They were seeking a federal buyout of their land because of widespread contamination associated with decades of copper and zinc mining. Last week, the EPA granted their wish. Here's a blurb from the NYT coverage:
The decision was a victory for about 140 residents, who had asked for help to leave the town because of contamination from lead and zinc mining. Congress approved legislation that gives the agency authority to relocate residents, and President Obama is expected to sign the bill this weekend.


tcruse said...
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tcruse said...

Seeing this story makes me wonder where those 140 people will go. Will they choose to relocate to another small rural town like Treece? Or will they move to the city?

How many other small rural towns are in this same position? We've talked about the evacuation of rural lands before. My instinct is to say clean the land up and encourage people to stay before opting for a buyout. But evironmental cleanups are often cost prohibitive. The EPA was looking at $25 million – eight times the amount needed to relocate the community – for a rehabilitative process called soil cleansing. And this process would take ten years! ( The EPA could buy out Treece for only $3-3.5 million.

It doesn't seem fair to make these residents wait years for renewed land when they could just take the money and move on. The potential negative health effects of living near contaminated land - even as it's being rehabilitated - are too much for the small community to bear. EPA testing showed a median blood-lead level for Treece residents of 4.0 micrograms/dL of blood, compared to the state norm of 2.5!

It's not right to keep rural residents 'trapped' in houses that they can't sell because of the pollution - especially when that pollution isn't directly their fault. In a story from one Kansas paper, "We had a big day in Washington, a good day," Treece Mayor Bill Blunk said. "We're looking at about 16 to 18 months after we get the (EPA) approval for actually moving out. Then, we'll be on the way hopefully to a bigger and better life."