By Wally Kennedy

Globe Staff Writer

The Newton County Mine Tailing Site is one of 10 locations nationwide that will receive Superfund money this year from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to start long-term cleanups.

The agency is providing a total of $49 million for the sites in this fiscal year, meaning the money must be spent by Sept. 30.

The Newton County Mine Tailing Site was placed on the list because more than 350 households in the northern half of the county have tested positive for lead, zinc and cadmium. Those households are receiving bottled water from the EPA.

The heavy-metal contamination in the wells stems from the lead and zinc mining in the region decades ago.

The site will receive $400,000 for construction of a water system to serve the affected households and more than 1,700 other households in northern Newton County. The total project has an estimated price tag of $12 million.

Ten other sites across the nation, where all of the preliminary work has been done to begin cleanups, will not receive funding because there is not enough money to get to them now, the EPA said Wednesday.

The EPA's regional office in Kansas City had asked the EPA's national office for $1 million to begin construction of the water system in Newton County.

Gene Gunn, a Superfund project supervisor in the Kansas City office, said: "It's the same piece of money we asked for earlier this year, but the amount we asked for was reduced.

"They asked us what we could spend by Sept. 30. We said we had $400,000 lined up to spend this fiscal year. The $400,000 was our recommendation.

"What's important is that we are on the list. We are above the line for priority-project funding. That puts us in line to get future funding. Though the amount is less, this is actually good news because we are now a priority project.''

The $400,000 will be spent this summer acquiring rights of way for water lines.

The EPA has not decided how it will supply the water. It could form a public water district, as it did in Jasper County with Public Water Supply District No. 3, or it could pursue an agreement with Missouri-American Water Co. in Joplin to extend service to the area.

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