The town of Treece, located in the southeast corner of Kansas, has a population around 140. At it’s peak (primarily during the two world wars), Treece and its nearest neighbor, Picher, OK, had a population of 20,000 and produced $20 billion worth of ore. Much of the lead and zinc that came from the area was used for weaponry in both world wars. Its mines closed in the 1970s, leaving a small community of the children and grandchildren of miners.
Today, the poverty level in Treece is more than twice the national average, and according to a recent test by the EPA, its residents have 60% more lead in their bloodstream than the average Kansan. Old mining practices have left the ground unstable and full of sinkholes. Mountains of “chat,” the toxic remnants of the mining, surround the town. The entire area surrounding Treece is part of an EPA Superfund site. http://www.epa.gov/superfund/related.htm
The majority of the community is preparing to leave. In October 2009, President Obama signed a bill authorizing a $3.5 million buyout of the contaminated town, and relocation plans are progressing. Picher, OK, has already been bought out, leaving a ghost town behind.
I’m concerned about what will happen to Treece’s history when all the people are gone. Though communities often change, it’s rare to see one unravel entirely. With your support, I’d like to continue to create a photographic archive of this small town before it disappears.
The relocation is happening very quickly! According to the town’s mayor, each home is currently in the process of being appraised. Offers will be made by late November or early December, and it sounds like it will be early Spring when they all start to leave.
I'd like to visit Treece three or four more times this year to continue photographing. I'm fundraising now for my next trip in January. With the help of Kickstarter and you, I’m hoping to cover the costs of film, developing, and printing, on top of my travel costs.
Thank you to the extremely talented Shawn Davis for allowing me to use his music in the video.
Thank you to the Baxter Springs Heritage Center & Museum for sharing some of their historic mining photographs from the area.
I also owe a big thank you to Matt Myers, Jump the Fence Productions, and everyone who worked on the documentary film Tar Creek. Matt has generously donated 10 copies of his film for 10 donors at the $40 level.
About Matt's film:
TAR CREEK is the story of the worst environmental disaster you’ve never heard of: the Tar Creek Superfund site. Once one of the largest lead and zinc mines on the planet, Tar Creek is now home to more than 40 square miles of environmental devastation in northeastern Oklahoma: acid mine water in the creeks, stratospheric lead poisoning in the children, and sinkholes that melt backyards and ball fields. Now, almost 30 years after being designated for federal cleanup by the Superfund program, Tar Creek residents are still fighting for decontamination, environmental justice, and ultimately, the buyout and relocation of their homes to safer ground. As TAR CREEK reveals, America’s Superfund sites aren’t just environmental wastelands; they’re community tragedies, too. Until the community fights back.
- (45 days)