June 12, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 15, 2005
10.636.1 - 10.636.6
Focus on Tar Creek
Christi L. Patton University of Tulsa
Tar Creek is #1 on the EPA cleanup list and it is located about 90 miles from the University of Tulsa campus. While the legislators and residents debate what should be done to clean up the area, freshman Chemical Engineering students research the history of Tar Creek and use this as a starting point for lectures and discussion on safety, ethics and the environment. Throughout the course students perform practice calculations that are based on the information gleaned through their readings. The last weeks of the semester are spent in a research project that takes them to Tar Creek to sample the water and test the samples in a series of experiments of their own design. The students then evaluate remediation methods and propose their plan to correct the problems that they found through the experimental testing. This project gives the students a practical appreciation of safety and the environment and an opportunity to apply their skills to a real-life problem. As a result of this project, student retention was improved and students gained a lasting sense of responsibility for the global environment.
Tar Creek has received national attention since it was established as a top priority by the EPA Superfund in 1983. As such, it is an appropriate topic for an introductory course in chemical engineering that emphasizes safety, ethics and the environment. The fact that it is located a ninety minute’s drive from the University of Tulsa makes it an excellent way to blend an introduction to engineering with current events.
The Tar Creek Superfund site is named after a creek that runs through the area then into the Neosho River and on to Grand Lake. The environmental disaster is the result of abandoned lead and zinc mines in a 40 square mile area near Picher, OK. Tar Creek is only a small part of what was originally known as the Tri-State Mining District in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri where lead and zinc reserves were first discovered in 1891 and mined heavily until 1947. At the peak of activity, 23 million gallons of acidic water were pumped out of the mines each day and into the local creeks.
“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Midwest Section Conference"
Luks, C. (2005, June), Focus On Tar Creek: Making An Introductory Course Interesting Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. https://peer.asee.org/15573
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015