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And Then You Win

We are left with questions. What will happen now? And when does NOW begin? What will the new normal be?

Two important announcements were decreed in the last few days that will have impacts on each of our lives not just for a day or two, but for the lives of individuals who we will never live long enough to meet.

The notices one for soil beneath our feet and ensuring us it must be made safer to protect us from the lead poisoning it may cause.

The other for the water that seeps onto Steve Owens, the same water we watch take over Riverview Park and move steadily up onto property and into structures.

Flood waters overtake Riverview Park swimming pool. Miami, OK

Imagine if what we read from EPA on the important change, they have made to lower the acceptable levels of lead in soil to protect us from lead poisoning can go into effect here in Ottawa County with their Operable Unit 2. What if every child could safely go out in their yard or the city parks or their school yard playgrounds and sit down, play in the dirt and parents be free from fear that they could be poisoned by it and if so their lives changed forever. Lead. as we know can affect every organ of the body and literally take IQ from a child. What kind of celebration will we have when the work is done throughout the county so that we are safe and the generations to follow will be too?

And those same generations may read about the great floods we experienced, but never fear that they will live through one and loose their childhood memorabilia, or their grandmother’s hand made quilts. What if the residents who follow us are fearless? Not because they have to be brave, but because they do not have to fear being poisoned by the soil beneath their feet or by the lake our Tar Creek and Neosho River feed that have forced flooding waters back on us. Those floods were toxic from what comes downstream from one of the nation’s largest and yet to be remediated superfund sites. And that water is forced to lay down on the City of Miami and saturate the landscape with those heavy metals that we learned make the banks along the Swimming Holes not even safe enough to PICNIC upon.

By looking forward like this, we realize the stress and underlying fear we go to bed with every rain-filled night. My friend Dr. Rosalind Wright spoke at one of LEAD’s Tar Creek Conferences over a decade ago and said living in a superfund site can cause its own kind of stress and adds to the TOXIC exposures we have. In other words, stress is TOXIC. I have felt this while conducting the Flood Survey in neighborhoods in Miami. The level of stress I felt with the survey participant who was a flood survivor was higher than with the person across the street where the water failed to breach their threshold. Distinctly different.

Our experiences can change us. Our exposures can too. For 46 years I have crossed that Neosho River bridge and seen the changes and the harms both can do.

So today, I want to celebrate. The deliberations made for us, made by people, we will never meet but who thoughtfully have evaluated data and documents we will never have to struggle to understand and have found we are due a change. An upgrade. Well, really that after all is said, we actually matter.

We have been validated. GRDA has caused the floods. Didn’t that resonate with you?

Knowing we were right? THEY did this. They caused the harm, the loss, the fear, the stress. I wonder are they feeling some of that stress themselves now? How does it feel to have your operations scrutinized? Questioned? And then to be given a deadline of 120 DAYS to act? GRDA can’t blame the Army Corps, and Inhofe can’t help them like the plan must have been when that amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act was slipped in. As we say at LEAD Agency, the JIG is up.

Lead free yard sign in front of garden bed

And then to have the Biden / Harris Administration make the announcement the day before that the standard for lead in soil has been reduced to 200 ppm. That could lower the cleanup level right here in Ottawa County in a huge way since the cleanup level has been 500 ppm. All residual property throughout the whole of Ottawa County is eligible for the soil program. All voluntary. All for free.

We could be a safe zone for kids!

Out of respect, I have waited a few days before calling to ask both EPA and the State of Oklahoma, “hey guys, what’s the new plan?” And when do the teams of people start answering the phone, taking down your address, and coming to analyze the risk your own yard can cause your grandchildren? And setting the date to remove contaminated soil and bring soil for the picnic, garden and PARTIES we need to have for the brand-new start this community can have.

We could have a lead-safe community that is free from the threat of future GRDA floods.


Sometimes you win.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim


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