The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 24, 2014

Work to fill Sucker Flats pit has stopped

WEBB CITY, Mo. — An Environmental Protection Agency project to fill the Sucker Flats pit in King Jack Park with mine waste has come to a standstill.

The $19 million project, which started in early 2013, came to a stop in the fall, said Carl Francis, interim city administrator. He said it was probably September or October. He said Friday he has been in contact with EPA officials periodically about the project, but he hadn’t heard any new information in about a month.

“They give us updates,” Francis said.

Francis said he was told that the work stoppage is the result of a pay dispute between the project contractor and a subcontractor.

The pit is 100-feet deep and has a capacity for 1 million cubic yards of mining waste. The EPA is cleaning 11,000 acres of land in Jasper County that had been contaminated by decades of lead, zinc and cadmium mining and smelting. The estimated volume of waste to be removed is 14 million cubic yards.

The heavy metals can harm human health and aquatic life.

The original cost estimate for the cleanup was $60 million, but because of increased amounts of waste determined after the initial estimate, inflation and increased price of diesel fuel, the cost estimate rose to $160 million to $170 million.

The cleanup and project to fill the pit would make an additional 23 acres of property in the park available for use.

Plans are to cap, grade and seed the pit after it is filled.

King Jack Park is the location of the Praying Hands Statue and also the Webb City Farmers Market.

Francis said he is confident that work will resume.

“We’re concerned with the delay,” Francis said. “It’s not really a concern with EPA. It’s between the contractor and the subcontractor. We’re pretty confident that EPA will rectify it and get them back to work.”

Sources with EPA and contractor Sullivan International Group didn’t return calls for this story on Friday.

Smelting history

There were once 17 smelters operating in the Jasper County EPA Superfund site.

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