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Be There for Tar Creek

For over 25 years children have been creating Tar Creek Fish. What? Yes, on one side was a wounded, perhaps sick or deformed, oddly colored fish, but on the other side: the Healthy, Beautiful fish. LEAD Agency has hundreds of these fish, but we would like to ask you to ask your grandchildren to create their own. We would like them to greet us all as we walk into the NEO Ballroom for the 25th National Tar Creek Conference!


Fish saying "we need safe water", student art
Student Art about keeping our water safe

When I was at Susie’s last week purchasing more Picher pride shirts for the Picher Project cast to wear in their New York City performances beginning later this month, once boxed, I thought we should have taken a picture! A young woman wearing one of the same type shirts we packed in the box, joined us in the photo, called me Ms. Jim and remembered making a Tar Creek fish when she was in second grade!


Robert Nairn’s Oklahoma University students have studied the species of Tar Creek fish that can and have in some parts of the creek RETURNED. Not because of the EPA’s work, but for the continued efforts of the two passive water treatment projects he has installed in Commerce. The discharges in Commerce that caused the RED and GREEN sinkholes, you might remember or have heard about and the discharges George Mayer spoke so eloquently about that helped bring attention to EPA forty years ago. These two sources sent a lot of metals to Tar Creek, including lots of IRON. Since Bob’s projects have been so successful, OUR Tar Creek doesn’t look as ORANGE anymore.


And because it doesn’t LOOK bad, our children, perhaps your grandchildren are reclaiming it. Many have spent long days this summer down by the creek, in the creek, damming it up and trying to CATCH those legendary Tar Creek fish.

Our Tar Creek looks deceptively good. Bob’s work in Commerce has helped, but the other million and a half gallons of mine water discharge is coming straight to them every day, unabated, full blast and fully loaded with the metals that have harmed many of us through our years of exposure, from just living this close to the superfund site.


Take some time and help us. Talk with the little ones, the young ones who ride off on their bikes all summer and sometimes take their fishing poles. Dream with them about a better Tar Creek, a safer one, a healthier one that could provide a delicious fish dinner that they could catch and bring home one day. Ask them to create their own Tar Creek Fish and bring them to the Tar Creek Conference, October 10, 11, 12. You might even want to bring them to our Fish Dinner that Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 5:00 pm. Tickets are $10, but with a hand-made Tar Creek fish, the children can eat FREE.

25th National Tar Creek Conference Poster

Mark your calendars and make every effort to attend all or parts of the 25th National Tar Creek Conference October 10, 11, 12. We will be sharing the agenda and you can come for all or just the parts that most interest you, whether it is flooding, yes, flooding for us is TOXIC flooding because of Tar Creek, BF Goodrich, yes, we still have lingering issues there, air quality, and of course Superfund updates. Come learn how Tar Creek was abused over a hundred years for the profits mining made.

The conference is free for Ottawa County residents, as it always has been.


Cherokee Volunteer Society members planned the first Tar Creek Conferences and they will be special guests this year. So, think back about the important work you did while in high school, and make arrangements to attend. LEAD Agency just picked up what you had started and kept it going for you. Our community has much to thank you for doing. But we are not done and this place is not cleaned up yet and won’t be unless we rally and begin to speak more clearly on what we want. It is easy. We want FISHABLE, SWIMMABLE, DRINKABLE WATER. We want a healthy environment and we don’t want to be FLOODED anymore.

Think of fish as the symbol of what is missing from our lives and let’s ask that they come back to a clean creek and a restored landscape. The people who could make that happen will be at the conference. Come tell them how you really feel.


We have all waited long enough.


See you soon,


Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim




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