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EPA To Buy Small Town In Kansas

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the anyone-have-change-for-a-twenty dept.

Earth 260

Ponca City, We love you writes "The Wichita Eagle reports that Congress has approved funds to relocate the population of the southeast Kansas town of Treece, which is plagued with lead, zinc and other chemical contamination left by a century of mining. Estimates say it will cost about $3 million to $3.5 million to buy out the town, which is surrounded by huge piles of mining waste called 'chat' and dotted with uncapped shafts and cave-ins filled with brackish, polluted water. 'It's been a long, dusty, chat-covered road, but for the citizens of Treece, finally, help will be on the way,' said Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas who has been pushing for a buyout of Treece for two years. The population of Treece has dwindled to about 100 people, almost all of whom want to move but say they can't because the pollution and an ongoing EPA cleanup project makes it impossible to sell a house. The EPA has already bought out the neighboring town of Picher, Oklahoma, stripping Treece of quick access to jobs, shopping, recreation and services, including fire protection and cable TV. Both cities were once prosperous mining communities but the ore ran out and the mines were abandoned by the early 1970s. Of 16 children tested for lead levels in Treece, two had levels between 5 and 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood and one had a level of more than 10 times the threshold for lead poisoning."

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260 comments

EPA plans to relocate town to New Jersey (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29927583)

Where it will become a nature reserve.

FHA is doing the financing.

Re:EPA plans to relocate town to New Jersey (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29927607)

Really? New Jersey? Dude have you been there lately, place is clean as a whistle.

Well, a whistle owned by a crack whore down on 53rd.

Re:EPA plans to relocate town to New Jersey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29927629)

All the more reason for them to stay put. Anywhere is cleaner than NJ.

Re:EPA plans to relocate town to New Jersey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928087)

Whoosh!

Re:EPA plans to relocate town to New Jersey (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928369)

I'm wondering if the kansas legislature will really do their duty to consider this, one way or the other. I'm a transsexual (see http://transsexual.org/ [transsexual.org] ), so I know what it means to want one thing and preach something completely opposite. I hope the legislature will come u pwith a coherent statement for the people... otherwise, many kansas ppl will probably not bother listening *sigh*

sounds reasonable, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29927611)

There could be lots more (hundreds) towns standing in line by this criteria.

Maybe the townspeople should've just built a big high school football stadium (Friday Night Lights) and sucked it up.

Re:sounds reasonable, but (1)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927959)

I lived in Kansas for a year, and distinctly recall thinking "if I won the lottery, Id come here, buy up one of these countless craptastic mini "towns" and set the whole god damn thing on fire"

I could have potentially done certain residents a favor...and my coworkers called me crazy. HA!

At least they... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29927649)

...didn't put a DOME around it, barring everyone in the town from the rest of the world!

Re:At least they... (5, Funny)

rainmaestro (996549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928129)

A shame, I was looking forward to the commercials...

Tom Hanks: [voiceover in TV ad] Are you tired of the same old Grand Canyon?
TV Dad: [bored] Here we are kids. The Grand Canyon.
TV Daughter: Oh, it's so old and boring! I want a new one, *now!*
Tom Hanks: [appears from behind bush] Hello. I'm Tom Hanks. The US Government has lost its credibility, so it's borrowing some of mine.
TV Son: Tussle my hair, Mr. Hanks!
Tom Hanks: Sure thing, son.
[laughs as he does so. Stars come out of the boy's hair. He then smiles in wonder]
Tom Hanks: Now, I'm pleased to tell you about the new Grand Canyon.
[shot changes to that of a smouldering crater]
Tom Hanks: Coming this weekend! It's east of Shelbyville and south of Capital City.
Marge Simpson: [watching ad] That's where Springfield is!
Tom Hanks: It's nowhere near where anything is or ever was. This is Tom Hanks saying, if you're gonna pick a government to trust, why not this one?

Is the g'ment paying pre-housing bust prices? (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927655)

If they are, I think I have some old thermometers around here somewhere....ooops! Dropped 'em!

Re:Is the g'ment paying pre-housing bust prices? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928289)

I'm afraid a little bit of red dye and alcohol (evaporating away rapidly) a Superfund site don't make.

Funny how this always happens (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29927669)

In the end it's the tax payers and not the rich owners that end up paying for the clean ups. It's my main opposition to nuclear power not the reactors it's the clean up from both the mines and processing sites. It's true of most mineral based resources that they cut corners on extracting and processing and the people living around the places and tax payers generally suffer. It's long overdue that we end the corporate veil for this kind of abuse and bleed the ones that profited dry to pay for the mess. There's a whole town full of houses we can let them have cheap to live in.

That's easier said than done. (3, Interesting)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927743)

Once the mining companies go belly-up, it's hard to say where the money's gone and who is responsible, because many people were involved. One thing is for certian, we all benefitted from the lower priced minerals, and now we all have to pay to clean up the mess.

Re:That's easier said than done. (5, Interesting)

niko9 (315647) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927863)

Don't forget that the majority of the mining was done to supply that war (WWII) effort. The US military used munitions in the *billions* of rounds, not to mention supplying the allies.

Just Google "treece, kansasa war effort"

Re:That's easier said than done. (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927983)

And the government required they poison the locals?
Was that to show those damn japs we meant business?

The reality is these folks chose to do it that way so they could sell more product at lower prices thereby increasing their profit. We cannot go after them for breaking rules that did not exist, but we could require companies going out of business to restore land to salable levels. If they fail to do that, pierce the veil and take the owners money to do it.

Re:That's easier said than done. (3, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928211)

"These folks" made no such decisions. The decisions were made by people above their pay grade (both in business and government.)

Re:That's easier said than done. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928259)

We cannot go after them for breaking rules that did not exist, but we could require companies going out of business to restore land to salable levels.

http://www.autosafety.org/gm-gets-dump-its-polluted-sites [autosafety.org]
If the government isn't forcing a company they have control over to live up to its responsibilities,
what makes you think they'll chase after private corporations

Re:That's easier said than done. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928571)

They won't. The simple fact is we have legalized bribery and until that ends this will continue.

When someone donates to both parties it is very clear what is going on, same when someone who could not vote in a race donates to a participant.

Re:That's easier said than done. (0)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927883)

Go after the folks that owned the company.
I bet it would have been cheaper to mine in a cleaner fashion up front. Hell, it would have been cheaper to move the townspeople out 30+ years ago and pollute to their hearts content.

Re:That's easier said than done. (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927947)

it's US law that you can't go after the stockholders

and back in those days most people didn't care about pollution

Re:That's easier said than done. (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928043)

No, it is perfectly legal to go after stockholders once a certain level of illegal activity occurs. This is referred to as "piercing the corporate veil".

This is just another example of what all the banks having been doing recently, socializing the losses and privatizing the profit. This unholy merger utilizing the worst of all possible economic systems is called corporatism.

Re:That's easier said than done. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928031)

How about starting with criminal charges for board members? Shareholders are one thing, board members are another. Board members should be culpable because they represent decision making at the top most level. If a company is sold, divested, acquired, etc, there are STILL culpable parties involved no matter how you slice it. If the organization ceases to operate, someone STILL is in charge at that time. If its a paper tiger and acts merely as a deterrent, so be it.

Silver? (1, Interesting)

Richard Kirk (535523) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928069)

Silver is usually a useful byproduct of lead and zinc mining, It was an important side-product of the Cornish tin industry. The tailings of lead mines can contain significant silver.

Nevertheless. there are regions which do no have the traces of the silver you might expect. The price of silver is not that great: it can dip below three times that of copper. If no-one is offering to rake through their tailings then either (a) they are waiting for a better price or (b) there is nothing there to be had. A simple chemical test - flame spectroscopy would probably be best - would settle the issue one way of the other.

Does anyone have the figures?

Re:That's easier said than done. (1)

Picard_1701 (725229) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928167)

One thing is for certain: you gotta pay when somebody else was responsible. That's just how your betters and masters like it. Hey, did you know that a threat to injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere?

Re:That's easier said than done. (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928235)

I would say that it is the government's responsibility to regulate the industry and ensure this doesn't happen. Problem is when the rich guys that own the mining company basically buy the rich guys the run the government, well you can see what the eventual result is. It really is criminal.

Problem is the rich owner, and the rich politician are long gone now. If they could be held responsible for their past actions, then something may happen. However I believe that is called accountability and that is indeed a rare commodity in both the government and private sectors.

Since it was the governments fault for not regulating properly it falls to them to clean up the mess. It doesn't matter that it wasn't this government, and the people involved are no longer around.

Accountability could solve so many things. However rich people on both sides do not want that to happen.

For example an easy solution to this sort of mess it to establish a central fund for say cleaning up after mining. Every company pays a considerable percentage each year into the fund. If you are a responsible company and clean up your mess to established specifications, then guess what? You get your money back from the fund when you are done! If you go bankrupt or are not responsible, then there is money saved up for the cleanup. In addition the government could use this money in very prudent secure investment to increase the funds available for cleanup.

Problem is that is a lot of money. A lot of money not going to share holders, owners, and the like. Say for argument 200 million per company for the lifetime of the mine. The owner pays a lobbyist and makes donations to political campaigns for say like 5 million (a 195 million dollar savings!). Now multiply that by however many mines there are in the US. You can see why perhaps progress is slow in this regard. It is a political issue, however unless people make it one, it is not to any politician.

Re:That's easier said than done. (5, Informative)

Genda (560240) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928251)

During the 80s and 90s, a small consortium of businessmen, built cyanide leach ponds in the Nevada dessert. The purpose of these man-made lakes of poison, was to dump lowgrade gold ore into them, to leach out the gold.

The minute they used up the pits, and extracted as much gold as they were able to, they pumped the money out of the companies, declared bankruptcy, abandoned to toxic disasters they created. In fact, looking at the many millions of dollars it will cost to remove the poison waste, clean up the landscape, and remediate the poisoned water table, it will cost tax payers many times what the mining company was able to extract from their business.

From my point view, this was nothing more than an elaborate scam to convert our tax dollars into their personal assets (and a grossly inefficient method at that.) Add to that, the horrific environmental damage, and gross lack of conscience of those involved, and our current mining laws (virtually unchanged from the 1800s) are the perfect vehicle for destroying vast tracts of Federal Land (that should read as public lands, all our land.)

Though most mining does produce resources vital to our society, we need to include the cost of safe and sane mining practices, and proper land reclamation in the bottom line of that business. Not to do so, is to invite more environmental disasters, and growing human cost.

Just as an aside, recent analysis shows that the largest source of fresh water in the southwest (the Colorado River), is becoming increasingly polluted by toxic heavy metals from abandoned mines in the Rockies. The impact of this pollution will impact tens of millions of people, and could cost the U.S. and Mexico hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity, heath cost, and cleanup.

Re:That's easier said than done. (4, Insightful)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928315)

Once mining companies (and property/land developers) realize that their is a risk that they might be sued in the future, they will create subsidiary companies that are legally responsible for the project. Once the project has been completed, the subsidiary company is liquidated along with any legal responsibilities. Either way, the owners will be absolved from any blame.

Re:That's easier said than done. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928567)

Once the mining companies go belly-up, it's hard to say where the money's gone and who is responsible

A lot of jurisdictions have laws now that cover this. Mine, in Nova Scotia, Canada, requires a large bond to be placed by the mining company before the ground is even broken. The bond is sufficient to cover the costs of reclamation once mining is done. Thus, the public is guaranteed that reclamation will happen for any new mine, even if the company goes under. NB that reclamation and modern mining regulations have basically eliminated problems like those that caused the issues in TFA. The only problems that exist now - in jurisdictions with first-world standards, at least - relate to natural disasters and human error, problems that affect every other industry that deals with toxic materials.

Have you looked at what it takes to make... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29927899)

... hybrid vehicles and solar panels? I hope you are opposed to those, too!

Re:Have you looked at what it takes to make... (1, Troll)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927925)

With lithium batteries cars will be cleaner, heck copper mining for wire which is used in all cars is just about the worst. If we would just require a certain level environmental protection for all goods sold we could prevent most of this mess. No hybrid car nor solar panel required the use of these methods, someone decided to use them so he could pocket the profit.

Re:Funny how this always happens (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928209)

The rich owners have been dead and gone for over 50 years. The mining that caused all this lead rich waste was done just after the turn of the century. There is a ton of wasteful spending in our gov't, but what lies around the cities of Picher and Treece is an environmental catastrophe of the worst kind that needs to be cleaned up. If you want to see for yourself, look it up on Google Earth. These cities are dwarfed by dunes of this mining waste (chat). Similar Superfund work in smaller projects are being done around the Joplin area, just 15 miles away. This area is also riddled with mining shafts, which cave in periodically.

Re:Funny how this always happens (4, Informative)

Ingva (914360) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928221)

The clean up from Nuclear Reactors is actually the easy part. Typical amount of radioactive waste per year would fit in the back of a pickup truck. Almost all of it is being stored on site of the various power plants. Where to put that waste where it will be safe for 10,000 years of so is the difficult problem. In the end a coal plant puts out as much radioactive waste as a nuclear plant. It just dilutes it and spews it into the air. Nuclear is by far the least of all evils.

Re:Funny how this always happens (2)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928573)

"Where to put that waste where it will be safe for 10,000 years of so is the difficult problem."

No, it's a political problem. The 10,000 year number is a red herring; if we were to reprocess and use the waste we wouldn't NEED to search for a way to keep the Eloi fat, dumb, and tasty.

Re:Funny how this always happens (0, Troll)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928373)

Seeing as these rich guys probably reside in the top 25% wage earners, they are also paying more than 85% of the tax burden. So lucky it is the rich people paying to clean it up.

Re:Funny how this always happens (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928559)

They should be paying that much, as they are earning that much. Look at the facts, [wikipedia.org] wages for all but the top 20% have stagnated for fifty years. Almost all of the increases in GDP have gone to that top 20%. Of course they should pay more in taxes, they own everything worth taxing.

Let me get this right (3, Informative)

aaandre (526056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927679)

Corporations turn town into a toxic sludge dump.
Taxpayers pay for people to relocate.

=> Free Money solves the pollution problem!

By converting the planet's natural resources into limitless virtual symbols for value, we are approaching a point when we'll have to eat, breathe, and drink money.

I think it may be time to reform money: http://www.realitysandwich.com/money_a_new_beginning [realitysandwich.com]

Re:Let me get this right (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927707)

Corporations turn town into a toxic sludge dump.
Taxpayers pay for people to relocate.

Are they relocating them to Hiroshima?

Re:Let me get this right (2, Insightful)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927759)

Exactly. Wouldn't it be sensible for future municipalities to look at this and think twice before allowing an outside corporation to extract profit and turn their town toxic? That would help manage the environmental impact. Oh, wait, it would also require people to think things through. Unrealistic.

Re:Let me get this right (3, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927839)

Wouldn't it be sensible for future municipalities to look at this and think twice before allowing an outside corporation to extract profit and turn their town toxic? That would help manage the environmental impact. Oh, wait, it would also require people to think things through. Unrealistic.

Municipalities typically have very little say as to controlling what goes on; most of that is state and federal law.

Re:Let me get this right (3, Insightful)

digsbo (1292334) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928385)

That sounds like a strong argument for less centralization of government authority, and a return of decision-making power to localities and private citizens (who have a bigger voice in local government).

Re:Let me get this right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29927819)

Or better yet, make the mining company pay for it... or the state of Kansas.
Why must the the fed come to the rescue with my tax dollars?

Better timeline. (1)

Eevee (535658) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928075)

Corporations turn town into a toxic sludge dump.
Taxpayers pay for people to relocate.

Corporations turn town into a toxic sludge dump.
Corporations go out of business.
People become more aware of the general problem of industrial pollution.
Laws are passed to limit such behavior.
People in the town get sick.
After realizing that the horse has left the barn, taxpayers pay for people to relocate.

Greenies (-1, Troll)

jhol13 (1087781) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927717)

Why government must intervene perfectly legal free market system?

(I'll laugh on your "comments")

Re:Greenies - broken accouting (5, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927771)

It was not a free market system. A faulty accounting system allowed the mines to extract profits without being responsible for the damages.

Now the tax paying public is cleaning up. So the "free market" now has tax payers paying while the company exits with its profits.

A proper market accounting system would have made the mining corporations pay for the cleanup.

So what happened here was a broken market system where the costs of the mines was not properly applied.

Re:Greenies - broken accouting (4, Interesting)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927875)

Note that this accounting failure is the descendant of a deliberate choice made by various courts shortly after the Industrial Revolution, when they chose to rule for polluting manufacturers and against impacted property owners in a blatant display of "progressive" social engineering triumphing over property rights.

Re:Greenies - broken accouting (3, Insightful)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927965)

Corporations are people, too: http://www.ratical.org/corporations/SCvSPR1886.html [ratical.org]

So I guess they merit "social engineering", eh?

/SarcasmOff

Re:Greenies - broken accouting (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928143)

Corporations aren't people until they're susceptible to rubber hose cryptanalysis.

Re:rubber hose cryptanalysis (2, Informative)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928321)

I think the rubber hose has been phased out in favor of the oh-so-versatile wet towel.

You fold the wet towel up tight across its width, drop its temperature to the verge of freezing, and Voila!

A cryptanalysis tool that automatically self-destructs while you stall the International Red Cross.

re: a deliberate choice (4, Interesting)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927991)

Indeed, and because we still haven't really learned that lesson (that property rights should *really* be treated as rights, and not subject to modification whenever government finds it more convenient), we're going to see this repeated.

It's certainly one of the ongoing battles with Monsanto corp. over some of the toxic waste sites they've left behind over the years. They've been playing all sorts of legal games to dodge paying for some of it though, including filing bankruptcy and spinning things off to a new company, Solutia.

If individual homeowners could file suits any time a corporation generates pollution that falls on their personal property, I bet they'd treat much more carefully. As it stands though, something like that would be a "David vs. Goliath" battle most homeowners can't afford to fight.

Re:Greenies - broken accouting (4, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928051)

Note that this accounting failure is the descendant of a deliberate choice made by various courts shortly after the Industrial Revolution, when they chose to rule for polluting manufacturers and against impacted property owners in a blatant display of "progressive" social engineering triumphing over property rights.

My observations have been that when you talk about pollution with rabidly pro-free-market libertarians, it proceeds something like this:

Q: Won't that new plant they're building cause a lot of pollution?
A: Well they should have to pay for externalities like cleaning up after themselves.

Q: Ok, they built the plant, can't we stop it from pouring all that pollution into the environment?
A: That's not really pollution. It's shoddy science to say it is. There's no proof that it causes cancer. Who cares if the rates of cancer have tripled, correlation does not equal causation. Making it cleaner will cost too much.

Q: Well the plant's been shut down, now the area around it is a dead zone, the economy's shot, and people are dying, isn't this a failure of the economy?
A: Well they should have been made to pay for externatlities like cleaning up after themselves.

Re:Greenies - broken accouting (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928361)

That's kind of a twisted way of looking at it - had the town been owned by a few landlords who gave the ok, it would not have been any better. Property rights only go so far in protecting the public good.

Re:Greenies - broken accouting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928307)

It was not a free market system.

Of course it was a free market. Unless you're trying to claim that government regulations *forced* them to pollute?

A faulty accounting system allowed the mines to extract profits without being responsible for the damages.

If they were allowed to do something, then it is (by definition) a free market. If they weren't, then it wasn't a free market.

To be precise, what you are describing is called an externality, and they exist just fine within the free market system.

Re:Greenies - broken accouting (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928577)

A proper market accounting system would have made the mining corporations pay for the cleanup.

The problem is that when people suggest that corporations should pay tax on the externalities that their operations create they get called "tree hugging socialists" or something. There's a huge section of society that doesn't know what an externality is, doesn't care, and has been convinced that taxing companies based on the pollution they generate is some form of anti-freedom anti-American communism.

Re:Greenies (-1, Offtopic)

aaandre (526056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927781)

(Non-monetary) slavery was also perfectly legal at some point. As was raping, selling or killing your own children.

Re:Greenies (5, Insightful)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927807)

Well, in all seriousness, it is worth noting that Pat Roberts is a Republican pushing for government intervention in an environmental problem. It's not so controversial when it's something an tangible as lead-poisoned children.

Re:Greenies (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928103)

Yeah but it's government take over of a town. Do we honestly want government take over of a town. Just say no to your town being taken over by the government :)

Re:Greenies (2, Insightful)

sajuuk (1371145) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927833)

Because the perfectly legal free market system crashes the markets, destroys lives, and also destroys the world in the name of increased profits.

Re:Greenies (2, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928089)

In an economics course, when they teach you about the free market, they start with something like, "When transaction costs are low, there are no barriers to entry, and property rights exist and are enforced, then the free market is efficient". Otherwise.... it's generally not. One of the things that lets negative externalities like pollution come to pass is that the "property rights" for "living in a town that's not crazy polluted" didn't exist / weren't enforced.

Re:Greenies (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927993)

The government's fundamental purpose is to at least restrain individuals from harming other individuals. Anything less than that is not a free market by its very definition. A free market is not anarchic in nature but is instead the minimum intervention required to protect individual rights against various forms of violence. Environmental damage like this is a perfect example of a case where the government must intervene on behalf of those whose rights were abused. You are arguing against corporatism which is a perfectly reasonable position to have on the matter.

What's Your Solution? (1, Insightful)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928207)

Do nothing? Okay.

Let's move to a totally free market economy. Let's forget about public roads. Someone will build a road to where I want to go. Except the road only goes one place. Did you catch the cost of switching from the road you are on to another road system? I can't get some places because the road owners can't agree to trade terms. That's okay though because it's unfettered capitalism.

The great thing about totally free markets is, kidnapping you and selling you into slavery is legal. But you won't fetch nearly the price I get for selling your children into slavery. There are no exceptions to your magical thinking. No pesky government prosecuting me for the world's oldest, most abhorent crime. And I'm just getting started. I'm going to put on man-to-beast fights to the death shows and charge $5 to get in. You will be my first contestant. I'm going to make a killing!

I could go on from there, but the basic point is you are pursuing a mythical notion with consequences that you can't possibly justify and purposely choose to ignore. The sooner you come back to reality, the better off we all will be.

I hope this is a lesson to China. (5, Insightful)

Nautical Insanity (1190003) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927723)

The goods manufactured there are cheaper for us because they export the true cost onto the Chinese population and the environment. Those costs will catch up to them, just as they've caught up to us.

Re:I hope this is a lesson to China. (5, Informative)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927879)

Not yet: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=1036/ [nasa.gov]

They're killing themselves, just to enrich our few and their few - no one has to emit that level of pollution to manufacture goods. Luckily for the wealthy in all countries, huge piles of cash make you immune to pollution.

I guess.

Re:I hope this is a lesson to China. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928233)

Make money now, spend money to clean up later. China is slowly starting environmental reforms. You can debate whether this is acceptable, but at least there's an awareness there that it has to happen eventually.

It's very Chinese to sacrifice a generation or two of people to hopefully better the lives of the generations after. It has happened many times before in the past, and it will again.

Re:I hope this is a lesson to China. (2, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928523)

I will match your imagine of Chinese pollution with pollution of East Coast USA [nasa.gov] .

Does your conclusion that "They're killing themselves, just to enrich our few and their few - no one has to emit that level of pollution to manufacture goods." still apply in this case?

Re:I hope this is a lesson to China. (0, Troll)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928371)

Nope. Right from the outset, they didn't learn. Not that I advocate dictatorhip; but China could have been interesting. They had absolute authority, and decided to abandon Marxist ideology in order to build the economy and keep themselves in power. They could have done anything. At that time, they had cities filled with bicycles. They could have done something really creative. Invested in advanced nuclear, Built ubiquitous highspeed rail with low-speed hubs to smaller towns, etc. They could have had some creativity. Some vision. They had little to stand in their way of imposing it.

Instead, they emulated late 19th and early 20th century industrialization, with all the known flaws. They created car-centric cities and that awful dam. What a waste.

Of course, it's also a shame that we'll never know what the crushed democracy movement would have done. They might have been just as open to corporate greed as the current government. OTOH, they might have been more open to early input from environmentalists and other groups also.

This is just wrong (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29927907)

If those people wanted to move then they would move. Why should our tax money go to pay for them to move? The government wouldn't buy MY house if I wanted to move and nobody wanted to buy it. They chose to live there and they need to live with the consequences. No more handouts for fools!

Re:This is just wrong (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928263)

Parent is 100% correct.
Who modded this flamebait?

Lead levels is exaggeration (2, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927963)

The comment about lead levels is exaggeration. Lead levels between 5 and 10 mcg/dl are more likely caused by chipping lead paint or lead dust from home renovation. Those lead levels more likely indicate that the mining is NOT causing elevated lead levels.

Lead levels above 10 mcg/dl are considered "elevated." Lead poisoning refers to lead levels above 24 mcg/dl.

Listen to the old coot... (0, Redundant)

BodeNGE (1664379) | more than 4 years ago | (#29927989)

Abe Simpson was right. EEEPAAA!!!!!! Are they going to cover it in a glass dome too?

Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928011)

1) Mine out everything you can, and pile waste all around
2) Sell land to EPA
3) ???
4) Profit!

I hate government spending but... (4, Insightful)

jhfry (829244) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928017)

Doesn't $3 Million seem a bit cheap. Essentially, they could clean it up for billions, but instead they are just gonna move the population away for a measly $3M and hope that everyone just forgets about the place.

I don't think that this "solution" will work in all cases, but in this case I am glad they decided to spend $3M rather than cleaning up the mess. If left alone for a couple of centuries, I'd wager that nature will take care of much of the mess.

Re:I hate government spending but... (1)

TheGreatOrangePeel (618581) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928117)

I think that there are much more [wikipedia.org] serious [wikipedia.org] areas to contend with first.

Re:I hate government spending but... (1)

tonytnnt (1335443) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928365)

This may be covered under CERCLA (more commonly known as the Superfund.) For the most part, CERCLA just figures out who's gonna pay to clean it up. Designation as a "Superfund" site doesn't necessarily mean the site is a significantly higher priority. Highest priorities are always given to situations where there's an immediate danger to life and health, whether Superfund or not. Not really knowing the site in question beyond what the original article mentioned, it may be a site that falls under CERLCA. At first guess, that's what I'd class it under.

Note: I'm just starting off in the environmental remediation industry. All opinions contained herein are my own, and are not necessarily representative of my employer or clients.

Re:I hate government spending but... (1)

rainmaestro (996549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928195)

With only 100 residents left, you could probably do it for $3m. The remaining abandoned property will be snatched up, through eminent domain or something similar (there's bound to be a statute for this sort of thing...

Hedley Lamarr: Wait a minute... there might be legal precedent. Of course! Land-snatching!
[grabs a law book]
Hedley Lamarr: Land, land... "Land: see Snatch."
[flips back several pages]
Hedley Lamarr: Ah, Haley vs. United States. Haley: 7, United States: nothing. You see, it can be done!

Re:I hate government spending but... (1)

tonytnnt (1335443) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928279)

You're right. $3 million isn't all that much for a federal environmental job. They may still have to clean up the mess though. And that can take quite a bit more money, especially considering there's probably both soil and groundwater contamination there. But when you have situations like this where an entire community is seriously affected, it's not abnormal to relocate them. (See Love Canal and Times Beach, Missouri for some environmental history.)

Note: I'm just starting off in the environmental remediation industry. All opinions contained herein are my own, and are not necessarily representative of my employer or clients.

Re:I hate government spending but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928489)

It's a depressed mining town, $3 Mil sounds about right.

Photos of the pollution (5, Informative)

TheNarrator (200498) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928029)

Some photos from around Treese:

Chat
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/3579757 [panoramio.com]

Cave Ins
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/3579725 [panoramio.com]

Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928049)

Ah yes, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas. The same senator who voted to protect KBR from rape charges. He's such a class act.

Communists! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928097)

Just apply the free-market solution to this bunch of pathetic pinko trash: fuck 'em. You want mommy government to buy out the town? No, let it fetch the free market price of $0.01 an acre (if you find a sucker willing to pay that much). This crying about lead poisoning is communist bullshit anyway. If it weren't for the commie EPA they wouldn't know it was bad at all and the town would be rolling in the riches of the free market. They'd also pull themselves up by the bootstraps and not complain about the commie fire department from the socialist town next door not being there anymore. If you can't afford a fire department in your town, tough shit, you fucking commie pinko. They're all probably dependent on pinko commie socialist Welfare, socialist pinko commie Farm Subsidies, socialist commie pinko Social Security, pinko socialist commie Medicaid, and commie socialist pinko Medicare. Probably send their kids to commie pinko socialist public schools. Don't even get me started on the socialist commie leftist fascist public police force, the goddamn unamerican pinko jackbooted islamic thugs. If it weren't for the fact that the mines are depleted, we should declare war on them.

This post brought to you by the Cato Institute.

Simpsons Did It! (0, Redundant)

DustoneGT (969310) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928213)

[Native American #2 sees a small piece of trash and begins to cry.]
Native American-Indian #1: Do yourself a favour. Don't turn around.
[camera pans across to show the old Spingfield as a huge land of rubbish and waste]
Native American-Indian #2: [off-screen] AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!
Native American-Indian #1: [off-screen] I told you not to turn around.

The entire town gets relocated five miles away.

Require mining companies to post a bond (5, Insightful)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928241)

Prior to starting the mining, the company should have to commit
to paying, say, 25% of top-line revenue into a fund to be held in escrow
by the government.
If the company cleans up adequately, and operates cleanly all along,
then at termination of mining operations, they get the funds back with interest.
If the government has to clean up, it uses the fund. There should be a penalty
catch, something like: If the government has to spend more than 25% of the
fund cleaning up, then the government fines the company the rest, and
such money is made available to an R&D pool that companies and universities
can access only for purposes of R&D into more environmentally responsible
methods and technologies for extracting resources.

This is probably an appropriate place to state that my signature line is ironic,
being a listing of two oxymorons.

your tax dollars at work (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928353)

Companies extracted the minerals without actually paying the true cost of their actions (and thereby generated higher profits), and now the taxpayer needs to pick up the bill. Of course, the relocation is only the tip of the iceberg: medical costs and environmental costs are likely to be many times over the cost of the relocation.

Re:your tax dollars at work (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928503)

Agreed. But money exchanges aren't the answer. Companies simply factor that as a cost of business, even if it's a risk of cost, not a cost ultimately paid.

The fix for this sort of thing is jail time.

OK, wait. That's all it costs!??! (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928481)

You mean I can buy an entire town for $3,000,000? That's not a lot of money for a bunch of buildings and some land.

So what do you do with a polluted site?

I can't think of any business model, but there has to be something...

Wind farm? Solar? Landfill?

That's a reasonably nice ending (5, Interesting)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928507)

The little town I grew up in is pretty much all a Superfund site from old mine tailings piles and uncapped vertical mine shafts, but unlike this situation, where the EPA has to fork out $3M for a problem that companies created and then ran away from, in Leadville the reclamation efforts have gone past $400 million and despite levels of lead, arsenic, and selenium in the ground water that are so high the upper Arkansas river sometimes has all the fish die(*), people in Leadville want to get the EPA out at any cost and live in their polluted town. When I look at the pictures of Treese, it looks very much like Leadville used to, where the highways and streets wiggled between tailings piles 20-50 feet high, and a short walk out of town led to streams the color of Mountain Dew or orange juice [cozine.com] (scroll down to the second-to-last picture).

So, I think this sounds like a remarkably civilized end to a nasty story, and hope they can get the people out. I've worked with people who had chronic lead and mercury poisoning from old mine contamination and some of them are really seriously screwed up.

(*) There was an old mine called the Yak Tunnel, dug not for minerals but to drain all the other mines, at a much lower level than they were, so it served as the sewage drain for dozens of huge mines. Whenever one of the old abandoned mines would have a collapse, a huge surge of contaminated water would dump out the Yak and right into the upper Arkansas, killing everything downstream for dozens of miles.

Socialism (2, Funny)

SteveHeadroom (13143) | more than 4 years ago | (#29928537)

Allowing a government to buy a town is clearly unfair competition and socialism. Only private businesses should be allowed to buy towns.

Wait a second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29928583)

So the mines closed in the 70's. That's nearly 40 years ago.

There's 100 people left, complaining that they can't sell their house?

Um... I call bullshit.

In 40 years, they should have been able to -pay-off-their-mortgage- cut their losses, and get the fuck out.

Even if they don't, they're putting a (very realistic) price on their health, and they're f-ing -dumb- for doing that.

If I found out that my town was -that- polluted, I'd move, default on the mortgage, and live (longer!) with the consequences. Anything beyond that would be short-sighted, ignorant, and just plain fucking dumb.

But no. Instead, they want someone else to fix their problem for them. Whiny ass bitches aren't willing to do what's necessary to protect themselves, I say let them all die.

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