Results and Conclusions

Facing Northwest from Empire Dam near Riverton, KS
Image © G. Manders

The small-format aerial photography obtained during our class field trip successfully illustrated the rolling topography of the landscape and the lushness of the hardwood forest in the Ozark Plateau. Variations in elevation of Shoal Creek, the highway, the valley beyond, the meandering of the stream, rocky deposits in the stream bed, evidence of past flooding, agricultural and other land-use were illustrated as well. By supplementing the aerial photography of the Ozark Plateau region with representative ground photography, observations and information gleaned from interviews and reports, the landforms and topographic expression will be emphasized further and will hopefully add some depth to our instructor's project.

For such a small area of the state, the Ozark Plateau has been impacted with a number of man's plans for progress in the past two hundred years, including but not limited to lead and zinc mining, the smelter in Galena, and the coal-fired generator plant at Riverton. Due to the impact mining has had upon the appearance and structure of the Ozark Plateau, results and conclusions in this project will address primarily the progress on the Cherokee County Superfund site.

By interviewing staff of Kansas' Environmental Protection Agency, I learned that planning regarding the approach and use of resources can prevent future problems and hopefully save future dollars in addressing all remediation projects for the superfund site. For instance, they have discovered that it is beneficial during remediation of a collapsed mine to reduce the mine waste footprint because more land is returned to re-use and the long-term operation and maintenance of capped areas is reduced. Another positive measure is to use stouter capping to reduce the long-term need for maintenance of capped areas because the vegetation is established much more rapidly and erosion is controlled.  Placing the wastes back into the collapse features alleviates the physical hazards associated with the features and helps to reduce the footprint of the wastes which leads to lower administrative and maintenance costs and more land re-use.
These are but a few of the many steps the agencies working on the mine waste and subsidence issues must consider in their efforts to restore the mined land in the Ozark Plateau to a near natural state. In actuality, caveins and sinkholes will be an ongoing problem, especially around the Galena area, so long-term monitoring in the future will be necessary due to the subsidence issues and to address water quality and health issues.

Superfund Site projects will be needed in the future of the Ozark Plateau rather than simply to meet current targeted remediation goals. Although it may seem that Ozark Plateau's stakeholders are taking one step forward and two steps back, future monitoring and addressing of on-going and new challenges is the only way to ensure a future for Ozark Plateau that includes man and other life.

It is thought-provoking to consider Ozark Plateau's Mississippian limestone has survived 345 million years and mankind has managed to severely damage the foundation and scar the surface in only 200 years. The following quote describes the magnitude of the problem: "I think that if there is one environmental lesson to be learned that the last 20, 30, or 40 years have taught us is that it's a hell of a lot easier to prevent a problem than it is to fix it once you've got it." —Rex Buchanan, Associate Director for Public Outreach, Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence, KS. (Lawrence Journal-World and News World Wide Website <>)

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