TREECE — Former residents of a southeast Kansas mining town have said their final farewell, marking the end to a buyout that began in 2009 after the town was deemed to be unsafe because of decades of residual lead and zinc waste.
In the last two years, residents have left Treece after receiving buyouts from the Environmental Protection Agency. The town has been removed from the state map after being disincorporated by the state Legislature earlier this year.
The Wichita Eagle reported Thursday’s ceremony was part municipal funeral and part celebration.
“I just want to congratulate everyone that had a deal in this buyout, that it went as smoothly as it did and as expediently as it did,” said Bill Blunk, the last mayor of Treece. “Once we found that it was deemed unsafe, the ball started rolling and it didn’t stop until it was finished.”
Millions of tons of lead and zinc mining waste surround the Treece townsite, and sinkholes and uncapped mineshafts are filled with contaminated water. Treece and nearby Picher, Okla., produced much of the lead that was used for bullets for WWI and WWII.
The final cost of the Treece buyout is expected to be about $3.6 million, said Bob Jurgens, chief of assessment and restoration for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Jurgens, the project manager, said the government bought out 66 families’ homes and relocated 12 renters.