Almost everyone who lives in the tiny southeast Kansas community of Treece knows there's not much of a future here. The 100 or so residents are hoping the federal government will buy them out like it did for Picher, Okla., just over the state line.

Almost everyone who lives in the tiny southeast Kansas community of Treece knows there's not much of a future here. The 100 or so residents are hoping the federal government will buy them out like it did for Picher, Okla., just over the state line.


But the Environmental Protection Agency believes problems in Treece, a former mining town, can be fixed and there's no need for the government to move anyone.


Treece experienced decades of prosperity before starting to become a ghost town, with heavy metal-tainted water and soil and a landscape of gray mine waste. The ground beneath the town has been undermined for metals, and its landscape is dotted with cave-ins and uncapped shafts that are filled with brownish water that is not safe for human consumption.


Local residents say their fate was sealed when the government bought out residents of nearby Picher and helped settle them elsewhere. The Picher school district laid off almost all its employees and auctioned off everything about two weeks ago. Its post office is to close July 6 and City Hall will follow on Sept. 1.


Treece Mayor Bill Blunk, who expects to be the city's last mayor, said the loss of Picher's jobs, shopping, recreation and public services has made the situation in Treece irreparable.


"If I could afford it, I'd move tomorrow," Blunk said. "I see no future. If they don't buy us out ... my term will be up in 2011 and I don't think we'll be incorporated at that time."