Topeka — Sen. Pat Roberts is keeping the pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to move residents out of the southeast Kansas town of Treece, which is contaminated with mining pollution.
Roberts sent a letter Thursday to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson inviting her to travel to Treece. It’s part of his effort to persuade the Obama administration to spend $3 million in federal stimulus money to relocate the town instead of trying to clean it up.
The EPA plans to spend $25 million on remediation, which would involve covering potential sinkholes and contaminated ground with new topsoil. But Roberts said that wouldn’t keep the ground from sinking and no one would buy homes in Treece as long as the public safety threat exists. Residents are stuck there because their home have no value, he said.
“It’s crazy,” the Kansas Republican told The Associated Press. “Putting topsoil on a sinkhole is not OK. Wasting taxpayers’ dollars it not OK.”
Jackson will be in Kansas City, Kan., on Monday, and Roberts said she should go see for herself the plight of the 100 Treece residents. The EPA in Washington had no immediate response to Roberts’ invitation.
Roberts said the EPA should treat Treece residents the same as those across the state line in Picher, Okla., where residents are being moved because of similar mining pollution problems.
Treece and Picher are within a mile of each other and were once involved in heavy metals mining that occurred in southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma and southwest Missouri. The mining operations ceased, leaving behind contamination.
The only differences between Treece and Picher, both about 160 miles south of Kansas City, are a state line and EPA regions, Roberts said. Picher is in Region 6, and Treece is in Region 7.
This is Roberts’ second swing this month at an administration official re-garding the Treece cleanup.
He urged Vice President Joe Biden to take a similar trip to Treece when Biden was touting new highway construction in Overland Park, a Kansas City suburb. Roberts pressed Biden over concerns that the government was spending $760,000 in stimulus money to pave a 5-mile stretch of road to Treece, only to see it damaged by heavy trucks during the cleanup.
The White House responded by saying the cleanup and road work would be rescheduled.
Roberts said the decision to spend millions to clean up Treece instead of paying to move residents was a similar waste of money, especially when the administration is being criticized for how the stimulus package was allocated.
“I may go back to Joe and say, ‘Hey, this makes no sense’,” Roberts said. “We’re not giving up on this.
“This is Round Two. We may have to go to Round 10.”