I like to say it starts with water. But actually, it started in New Jersey. NEW JERSEY?
Yes, the Picher Project was going to be “workshopped” by the creators: Quentin Madia and Lauren Pelaia at The College of New Jersey for ONE night and my son agreed to clear his calendar and go with me to the event. Arriving in the rain lent a sense of gloom, but that all changed quickly when seeing these young people and the energy they were feeling.
You will be spellbound by The Picher Project, the musical. They have captured the history, the locale, the excitement, dread, fear and yet will have you humming your favorite tune as you leave the building. You will know many of the characters because one of them may be you, yourself.
That’s what I discovered when Act 1 began when the actor on stage was the me they thought best to introduce the place, the problems that would be faced and the events that we would all live through over the decades together.
I had attended the Feinstein’s 54 The Picher Project and had been only one of many characters, but after 4 years, found that night in New Jersey there had been a re-write that thrust my role more to the front, much as a storyteller, a reluctant but persistent voice for environmental issues at this site.
If you have ever been honored at a retirement party or received an award and praise and glory seem to land on you and the sense of just turning one way and then the other for closest exits but find yourself becoming more than Great herself in the eyes of the attendees, well those were some of the feelings that were popping for me. But, everything the actor said, I probably had said in public because these young writers READ everything, researched facts, met people and interviewed many in their homes.
They reminded me of the decades that we all have been witness to and what has happened here and will be happening in future sites of mining the new essential elements. The thing we will have to all challenge ourselves is to find the ways we can be brave even when it is uncomfortable and speak up while we have a turn for what is right and just for yourself and the people and place we call home and for the water that runs through it.
Which brings me back to water. And again, the dams are returning to Tar Creek and teams are taking them down. Do not trap water, it will collect behind the dam, in the swimming hole you and your friends are creating and that water will allow the metals to collect and concentrate, do not trap water, remember that Commerce has a waste water permit and will discharge water that can hold bacteria that will make you sick. It is also a Clean Water Act violation to stop free flowing water. Also, when the rocks are removed from the creek bed for these constructions, where do you think the little ones can hide? The life in the creek that we all want to be restored, must have hiding places to lay eggs and grow to frog-hood or other species-hood.
There are metals in Tar Creek since we know she flows through one of the largest superfund sites in the country and is contaminated with the metals that were mined there. Both swimming and fishing are discouraged on the signs approved by EPA and DEQ. Discourages. After 43 years, we have gotten “discourages use.” What we need is a clean and clear and safe Tar Creek that we can ENCOURAGE everyone to enjoy as a right, especially on a summer afternoon. And I encourage everyone to WANT it and SAY so. That is a long time to wait.
As they say, sometimes you have to see the future you want and that will guide you to it. The future will come and your wishes can come true. That’s my life choice. Clean water for the future and The Picher Project, the Musical on stage at the Coleman Theater in October 2023.
In the meantime, if you live in the 100-year floodplain you will be subject to TOO MUCH water, if you haven’t answered the door to our persistent knocking, complete the FLOOD SURVEY on our website: www.leadagency.org. If you live in the far northeastern part of Ottawa County, answer your door and hold your dogs back, we will be asking you for permission for your drinking water well to be tested, because it is all about water, and having safe, clean water.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim