So when Ken called, I pulled over and turned the car off. There were countless issues to ask him, like: will he be watchful for oil and gas leases let too close to Tar Creek that might cause earthquakes that could cause collapse, could he be mindful of the Roubidoux being depleted by the influx of poultry industry use, could he consider the burden our environmental justice communities already have and help protect us from more? How many times do you get the chance to talk to people in power over any sort of environment, much less our own here in Oklahoma? He called to apologize for not knowing soon enough about the Meet and Greet at Tar Creek we were hosting that very day. He regretted it because the New Strategic Plan for Tar Creek was going to be announced at our event…. No I hadn’t heard… he assured me he would email it as soon as it was officially released.
It all came together for me. You might not remember, but just last week, I was shuffled out of a meeting, shunned as it seemed, but now I understand it to have been the coolest thing. The US Government has to consult with tribes on a government to government basis, and that was what was about to happen in that meeting! The Tar Creek Superfund Site is on the Quapaw Nation land and EPA represented the US Government and the strategic plan had to be revealed to the tribe first! Not only was Tar Creek getting some respect, but so were the Quapaws!
The announcement to the public came this week at the Tar Creek Meet and Greet held at NEO. The 48 page document was released too late to get copies made for us to view Monday afternoon, but we have left hard copies at the NEO College Library, Miami City Library, Miami High School so far. It is easy reading with big print and lots of pictures. The plan is big, addressing our wounded landscape and our troubled waters and remembering the goal to protect our children and their future. You can read it and make comments, we can and I certainly will. We have until April 12, which is not much time, strategically speaking.
If you are like me, we can make time for what we deem important. How about deeming this? Read it and have like me, actual hope. Think what it would be like to know the other half of our county could be different, more like it was before mining wrecked its prairie features. Would you like to have the seven watersheds we are in the midst of get better? Imagine finding mussels again in the rivers? People, we were mussel way-station before mining with 24 different species.
The coolest thing EPA could get would be letters from us saying something. Like: YEA EPA, keep it coming, we’ll keep the light on for you! You might even say: I like the plan but could you do more and do it faster? Could we go ahead and double the plan? If the ground is cleared and cleaned for crops, could you work on stabilizing the ground so it is safe against collapse? Could we let EPA know that is still important for us? Ask for dredging upper Grand Lake right away so GRDA won’t have to raise the lake level 2 inches and put Miami at risk for flooding.
I know you will have your own ideas and knock them around with your friends over coffee, but EPA won’t be sitting with you over coffee and will never know what you think unless you put it in a letter and get it to them. EPA does not read minds, but they do react to letters. I was at a meeting in Washington D.C. last year and a man from a community with a lot of really toxic issues. He brought in a stack of letters ONE FOOT HIGH from his neighbors and their neighbors. That community is getting help right now, I believe because of the letters.
This all happened this week including the release of Jim Sticklan’s new CD “EARTH” with environmental songs like Clean Up Tar Creek, he hopes will bring the kind of change to make a better world for future generations.
Looking forward, substantial cleanup work remains here and will take decades to complete… at this rate. Grateful for better, but hey, quicker works for me, too.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
Letters: Amber Howard / Rafael Casanova at EPA Region 6, 1445 Ross Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75202