Updated: Mar 23
Hope and Restoration resounded in Richard Zane Smith's words: "Draw our minds together as one so we can work together and give thanks to our Mother, the earth and to all our life providers."
Have you ever held a surprise birthday party and then waited to see if the parties would all show up?
That is exactly what hosting a Tar Creek Conference is like. Thank you for coming, for buying a raffle ticket or donating items for the silent auction. This year's 24th brought all the parties into the room and gave us time to see and hear each other. Not enough time. I and you still had lots more we wanted to say, questions to ask. But we tucked them back into our pockets, stayed civil and used our programs to tell EPA they were not done enough and they had not been protecting either Miami or the lake we used to love.
The work must continue and the pace ramp up. And with you in the room, sitting on the front row, while some of you ended up sitting in the empty seats that brought you seated next to federal and state agency professionals, you were the public they are all there to serve.
I couldn't have been more proud of you. And then the next day, I couldn't have been more disappointed not in you. You came to hear what DEQ/Michelin would tell us about the project they are launching in the BFG neighborhood to begin to deal with the shadow of doom we fear laying beneath your homes: the benzene. To allay our fears, to allow you to know you are being protected, that your lives matter. The DEQ staff who only the day before had proclaimed their openness to hearing from you were not there. They had gone. That team, assigned to deal with Tar Creek had listened and stayed until they were called home. But team two, they didn't come. They sent a light blue one-page handout and a short video. Three read from a script. They gave their phone numbers, but the only number I got down was J. Paul Davis 405-702-5100, but Erin Hatfield 405-702-7119 and Michelin: Connie M. Bryan 405-562-6800 were on the handout.
We were all disappointed and the room seemed to be in shock. But the mystery woman who came just before we reached that part of the agenda, sat on the front row near the tech table had her notepads open and promptly left when the last handout was placed on the tables. Did you know her? Was she satisfied? Will she use those numbers that had been posted with her questions or was she representing the companies who have stalled cleanup ALL THESE YEARS?
If we are going to move industry in the case of BFG, we also must move the agencies who represent the environmental issues that affect us. They have to know you want their help and deserve it. Consider remembering the benzene which may not be under your home, but could be under the house your future daughter-in-law will live. The EPA Region 6 representative assured me we can expect them to in some way to follow up on the other parts at that site that raise concern: the pond north of the plant and the dump across P Street that we have long thought should be investigated. LONG OVER DUE
But we learned it was all complicated.
The chat piles that sit and marinate in flood waters and then spill down through our neighborhoods, agricultural fields and across the college lands. Consider flooding in our beautiful Rotary Centennial Park and the pollinator plants who suck up toxic water that attract the pollinators who may be harmed, too and the yards you so earnestly had remediated by EPA/DEQ. The rep from DEQ announced these properties can be re-sampled if you are concerned.
These floods can be controlled and your EPA needs to sit down with FERC and GRDA and get FEMA in the room. They have lots to talk about and work to do for you.
Keep calling, keep gathering. Wear Don't Flood Us shirts on Main Street, in the parks, and wear them down on Steve Owens, walk into Nott's with them on and stand in line for the best deli sandwiches in town.
There are times to be quiet. But show up and wear a shirt as you do your shopping and let's say what we want, what you deserve. Some conference shirts are left if you want to show concern about those chat piles, and LEAD has a number of free Flood Map flashdrives and will help you learn how to use all the features on the map.
And we must remember to keep putting our minds together as one.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim