Tar Creek got discovered when it made front page news in the New York Times and the Washington Post, the little orange creek in the middle of the country, was listed on THE list of the time, the National Priorities List, EPA's now notorious hit list of toxic places, as worst and first. It became known as the Number One Toxic Site in the country.
Tar Creek's fame faded as other sites vied for attention from the new Environmental Protection Agency and its Superfund division. Fame didn't get our site fixed, but it did get us discovered. EPA did some work to curb new water from entering the Boone Aquifer and recharging it with more water that would also become toxic in those underground mine chambers. They filled some mine shafts and bore holes and some sink holes. They built a berm to keep contaminated acid mine water from entering Tar Creek and then they left, claiming they had done what they could at the site defined by a 40 square mile box.
Superfund sites dot the country now, they are a dime a dozen as they say with every 3rd person living within 3 miles of one. They are everywhere because we have industries that pollute. Yes, they do. They make mistakes and in many cases choose "Better Business" and pay fines rather than change their ways. Since EPA was established regulations were issued to curb spills and discharges into water, to the land and to air that have protected human health and the environment. Personally I like the protection and would like even more to protect the vulnerable, the young, pregnant women and the elderly. I have been all of those in this life and feel a few more years may even be possible because those regulations have extended life for me and many others in this country.
EPA had to return to the Tar Creek Superfund site because our children were found to be lead poisoned. When that trend nationally was declining, the numbers of our kids effected were outrageous and EPA had to start doing something to STOP it and are still removing yards and driveways and hauling chat off.
George Briscoe and Kyle his high school classmate attended the meeting LEAD hosted last Thursday and a whole bunch of folks from Grove got to hear for the first time how superfund works and where we are in the process as it relates closer to their shores. That evening I checked my email and there was a message from Dr. Ean Garvin with a copy of the article she had just had published with co-authors Cas Bridge and her mother Meredith Garvin on their research into the sediment outside our "box" and the implications those metals have on plants humans and our other living creatures consume.
Our superfund site affects each of us and what we learned from Congressman Mullen's representative a few days ago is he has not heard from us asking for the attention we are going to need. Our senators have to hear from us about this site and all the other issues you are passionate about. For the long haul it is realistically going to take decades to get this site cleaned up and Congress will have to take tax payer money to do it unless Congress reinstates the Superfund tax on polluters.
We want to be taken off that priority list with a cleanup and the site restored. But we will not get to be a priority unless people, you and your fishing buddies and the folks on your block start speaking up and making it a priority in your life. Think about what could happen: we could have lead-free fish, we could be sure our children were SMARTER and TALLER and had better HEARING, healthier KIDNEYS, fewer cases of CANCER, just for starters.
The contaminant of concern EPA has determined here at Tar Creek is lead though it is certainly not the only metal we find in the everyday DUST we have in our homes and in our cars, in our mailboxes and in the attics and garages and our yards. Lead does not dissolve or dilute. If it is there, it will stay there, until it is removed.
We need to be discovered again by the "outside" world. Film makers are welcome and invited to come to our community to help tell our complicated story. We can hope our individual stories, our efforts can help other groups of people, communities and those living in the long shadows of other superfund sites to have hope and never give up.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim