Friday, April 13, 2007

Muegge Cleans Up

(Note: Former State Senator Paul Muegge, a Kennedy Profiles in Courage winner, is still standing up for the environment and keeping things clean in Oklahoma. Read his acceptance speech here. Read today's story from the Oklahoman below. Muegge will attend the ODP State Convention in May. He formerly represented Senate District 20.)

Contamination issue sparks meeting

By Josh Rabe
Staff Writer

BLACKWELL — A group of about 150 Blackwell residents met with environmental and health officials Tuesday night to discuss lingering concerns over lead and zinc contamination from a former zinc smelting site.

The meeting kicked off a second cleanup effort to remove contamination that may have been left in the community by a zinc smelter that closed more than 30 years ago. The smelter's owner conducted a state-mandated cleanup at the polluted site when cadmium and zinc pollution started showing up in the city's wastewater system in the early 1990s.

Mining company Phelps-Dodge, which acquired the site in a 1999 buyout of the former owner, is launching a second cleanup effort to determine whether unsafe levels of the metals remain at residents' homes.

Property owners will have 90 days to sign up to have their soil tested for contamination, said Paul Muegge, a community outreach liaison for the company.

"With something like this there are a lot of unknowns,” Muegge said. "People have to be reassured that what is being done is being done right.”

The company plans to remove any soil found to have unacceptable levels of contaminants.

Some residents who attended the meeting said they were disappointed because they thought they had been promised an open forum to talk about pollution but weren't given one, said Keith Langston, a Texarkana, Texas-based attorney investigating complaints that residents are still in danger from the site.

Even if the company cleans up contaminated soil, lead and arsenic may have spread beyond the soil and into residents' homes, Langston said.

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