News Columns & Blogs

Kansas's own Appalachia

Twenty five years ago I spent a few days in the southeast corner of Kansas working on a story about the former lead and zinc mining towns of Galena, Treece and Picher Oklahoma.

I returned last week to Treece and saw little had changed except that now the town of Picher is vacant, a stone’s throw across the gravel state-line road.

The town is beset with pollution, poverty and nowhere to go.

A century of mining that built Treece has left a legacy of heavy-metal tainted water and soil, surrounded by mountains of toxic mine tailings. Treece residents hope the federal government will buy them out and settle them elsewhere, as it did with neighboring Picher, Okla.