Galena Lead Mine Superfund Site, Galena, Kansas




Property Loss Caused by July 2006 Subsidence Event in Downtown Galena


Property Loss Caused by July 2006 Subsidence Event in Downtown Galena

Site Location


Galena is a city of approximately 3200 people in southeastern Kansas. The city was named after the lead ore, known as galena, found in the area in the latter part of the 19th century.


Map of Kansas highlighting Cherokee County


Location of Cherokee, County, Kansas

Galena is located in an area known as the Tri-State Mining District; so named because of zinc and lead mining that occurred until the 1960’s-1970’s in this region of eastern Missouri, southeastern Kansas, and northeastern Oklahoma.  

Site Description   


Galena is a rural community located in southeast Kansas, within the Tri-State Mining District Superfund Site in Cherokee County. For over a century, lead and zinc was mined in the region and resulted in production of nearly 3,000 abandoned mine shafts in Cherokee County.  Even though lead and zinc mining activities subsided in the latter half of the 20th century, numerous environmental problems and other hazards still remained.


Waste mine tailings, also known as chat, which are byproducts of the mining and milling processes for lead and zinc ore, covered 4,000 acres in southeastern Cherokee County according to the Kansas Geologic Survey.  Chat hazards were not limited to just the tailings piles; however, as the wind blew fine metal-bearing dust from tailings piles, spreading the contamination. In addition, leaching from the waste mine tailings contaminated wells and groundwater, with runoff moving contaminants into nearby streams and rivers.


Another by-product of mining operations was highly acidic mine drainage (acidic water, containing metals that can contaminate streams). When the lead and zinc mines were abandoned, they filled with water, and began contaminating local aquifers and surface waters.


Contaminated streambeds near Galena


Contaminated streambeds near Galena in the 1980s

(source: abyss.kgs.ku.edu)


Over the years, other hazards have arisen. Subsidence was often a result of the final phase of mining, known as "robbing the pillars," which involved mining the pillars that supported the mine roof. Without these supports, the mine collapsed, eventually causing subsidence at the surface. U.S. Bureau of Mines and state geological surveys located more than 1,500 open shafts and nearly 500 subsidence collapses in the Tri-State Mining area. 


Subsidance Feature in Cherokee County, a collapsed area filled with stagnant water


Subsidence feature in Cherokee County. (source: www.kgs.ku.edu)


Human health exposure risks were addressed through the EPA Superfund program, Cherokee County Galena Subsite (Operable United 5). This action involved removal and relocation of mine waste, stream restoration and re-vegetation of mining-scared lands primarily in an area called “Hells Half-Acre.”  Working on conjunction with local residents, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began site cleanup in 1993.



Hell's Half-Acre in Galena, KS (Dec. 2006)


Hell’s Half-Acre in Galena, Kansas (Dec. 2006)


The number and types of cleanup activities at the Galena site were extensive, and included burial of contaminated surface mine wastes, redirecting surface waters away from waste piles, and contouring the topography and using selected native prairie grasses to re-vegetate the area and further control runoff.


However, problems still persist. Recent susidence of old mine shafts have impacted two family operated businesses in Galena and jeopardizes safety of residents. In 2006, a mine collapse had occurred in an alley behind the Green Parrot Bar in downtown Galena. A subsidence had suddenly collapsed into an abandoned lead and zinc mine taking the alley and the 114-year old building with it.


Green Parrot Bar mine collapse

Green Parrot Mine Collapse (source: www.kdheks.gov)


Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) estimates over 500 shafts in Cherokee County will require corrective action to avoid future cave-ins. The State of Kansas, KDHE and EPA are collaborating to address Galena community health and safety concerns.



With the passing of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, in 1980, EPA was charged with the responsibility of overseeing both short-term and longer-term remedial response actions at Superfund Sites (EPA's National Priorities List) that reduce the dangers associated with releases or threats of releases of hazardous substances.  Once clean-ups have been completed, EPA conducts regular five-year reviews. In 2005, EPA Region 7 and KDHE began the third five-year review of the Cherokee County Superfund site in Cherokee County, Kansas, including the cleanup review for Galena. Information regarding current EPA activities in the Galena area can be obtained by contacting either the Region 7 Community Involvement Coordinator or Region 7 Remedial Project Manager. Contact information can be found at the bottom of this Web page.


The KDHE Bureau of Environmental Remediation is responsible for responding to environmental emergencies and to manage environmental contamination. The bureau has oversight of surface mining site regulations, as well as overseeing remedial activities at contaminated sites.


The KDHE Surface Mining Section , under the KDHE Bureau of Environmental Remediation, works directly with the community group, Galena Mining Task Force to communicate subsidence abatement plans and public safety issues. Progress in addressing Galena subsidence issues has been limited to mine shaft hazards due to complexities associated with the size of the project, lack of availability of fly-ash required to generate fill material and other stabilization engineering requirements (man-hours, equipment, funding resources and time). Priorities are focused on filling void space and stabilizing subsidence near public areas.


If you have questions or need additional information concerning the Cherokee County Superfund site, please contact those individuals listed under the TOSC Information Contacts, at the bottom of this page. Documents that are part of the Site Administrative Record are available at the following locations:


Organization Requesting Assistance


The Galena Mining Task Force is a citizen’s group focused on issues related to stabilization and reduction of mine-related hazards within Galena. Quarterly meetings are held to discuss issues related to hazard abatement involving local, state and EPA representatives. The Superfund program cannot allocate money to be used to address current subsidence events or safety hazards, so other funding sources are needed. Primary community concerns in Galena regard public safety near school areas, city municipal offices (include police and fire departments) and the business district.


The Galena Mining Task Force communicates with KDHE to help prioritize abatement action planning. The task force is also working with their state and federal legislators to pass legislation that will guarantee availability of subsidence insurance for all Kansas residents.

Beginning Date of Assistance


December, 2006

Summary of TOSC Assistance


TOSC personnel have conducted a site visit and technical assistance need assessment. The Galena Mining Task Force has requested TOSC services to help inform the Galena community about subsidence hazards and abatement issues, which include the following activities:




Hell's Half-Acre in Galena, KS (Dec. 2006)


Hell’s Half-Acre in Galena, Kansas (Dec. 2006)





Other Links

NOTE:  The EPA TOSC and TOSNAC programs have ended. Communities seeking technical assistance should contact:


- Belinda Young in EPA Region 7’s office (for help in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, or Iowa) at 913-551-7463 and Young.Belinda@epa.gov;


- Briana Bill in EPA Region 5’s office (for help in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio) at 312-353-6646 and Bill.Briana@epa.gov; or


- Karen Martin at EPA Headquarters at 703-603-9925, Martin.Karenl@epa.gov; or


- EPA personnel identified at the bottom of the TOSC Information Contacts below:

TOSC Information Contact


Peter Kulakow
(Previously of K-State)

Brenda Brandon

(Previously TOSC Coordinator at K-State)


Darrel Shoemaker
Chairman, Galena Mining Task Force
1113 N. Cleary

Galena, KS 66739


Debbie Kring

US EPA Region 7

Community Involvement Coordinator

726 Minnesota Ave.

Kansas City, KS 66101

Voice: 913-551-7725

Email: kring.debbie@epa.gov


David Drake

US EPA Region 7

Remedial Project Manager

Superfund Division

726 Minnesota Ave.

Kansas City, KS 66101

Voice: 913-551-7626

Email: drake.dave@epa.gov

© The Center for Hazardous Substance Research
Last modified February 28, 2014