Polluted Kansas town's residents may get buyouts this summer

Residents in the polluted town of Treece could start seeing offers for their property as soon as this summer if the state can agree to fund one-tenth of a $3.5 million buyout and appoint trustees to oversee the relocation, officials said.

In a letter to state officials, the Environmental Protection Agency outlined the steps yet to go before the approximately 100 residents of the southeast Kansas town can be paid for their property and moved away from environmental hazards left behind by a century of lead and zinc mining.

None of the EPA's conditions appear insurmountable, said state Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, who represents Treece.

Officials of the EPA and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have scheduled a community meeting Thursday evening to update the residents of Treece on the progress toward a buyout.

Because Treece doesn't have a large meeting room, the session will be held at the former city hall of Picher, Okla., an adjacent community that has already been bought out and emptied of residents because of the pollution the towns shared.

Treece is surrounded by millions of tons of lead- and zinc-contaminated mining waste called chat, piled up by the mines that once brought prosperity to Picher and Treece.

The area also is dotted with abandoned shafts and cave-ins filled with toxic water, and threatened with ground subsidence from extensive undermining of the community.

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