EPA targets two southeast Kansas lead smelter sites for Superfund list

    The unemployment rate in Kansas declined to 3.8% in December after reaching 5.1% in November. This image is of the floor map in the Kansas Capitol. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
    The unemployment rate in Kansas declined to 3.8% in December after reaching 5.1% in November. This image is of the floor map in the Kansas Capitol. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

    TOPEKA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded lead contamination of residential property in the southeast Kansas town of Caney is dangerous enough to be placed on the Superfund list.

    “Adding the Caney residential yards site … will help us protect this rural community by replacing soil in yards where families gather and children play,” said Jim Gulliford, administrator of the EPA’s regional office in Lenexa. “Protecting children and families from lead exposure is one of Region 7’s highest priorities.”

    The federal agency also proposed Tuesday adding a lead smelting site in Weir, which is another of southeast Kansas’ old mining locations, to the Superfund priority list due to human health and environmental risks. The Cherokee Zinc-Weir Smelter site has caused contamination of residential yards from smelting operations that date back about a century.

    In recent years, sampling by EPA and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment identified residential properties where soil contained more than 400 parts per million of lead, which is considered EPA’s action level for removal.

    EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement that many sites requiring expansion of the Superfund list were located in “vulnerable, low-income, and minority communities that deserve our attention.”

    “EPA is demonstrating our commitment to assist overburdened communities in becoming cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous places to live, work, and go to school,” he said.

    Nationally, six sites were placed on the Superfund roster and four locations were recommended for inclusion on the list.

    The NPL includes the nation’s most serious abandoned or uncontrolled releases of environmental contamination. Only sites on the list are eligible for federal funding of long term, permanent cleaning operations.

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    Tim Carpenter
    Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.