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Eye Opening Report

Karman King began by going over the highlights of her resume, from being the aquatic toxicologist during the Exxon Valdez spill to her 35 years working at Superfund sites and actually living in two such sites in Colorado. She understands contamination. The Gold King Mine spill we speak about often here actually spilled in view of her own home.

At one point when a participant asked the meaning of watershed and Karman simply held up her hand. The streams, creeks and rivers all feed to the lake. That is your watershed.

EPA had developed a document, a health assessment on the site use of a 1/3 mile portion of Tar Creek in Miami, OK and LEAD Agency asked the agency’s assistance to better understand the information it provided and be able to communicate that back to the general public. The TASC program was designed to help communities in this way and provided this technical consultant for us.

We learned page by page from charts filled with columns of numbers. We were back in school. Learning in rows. Seeing in front of us we were at risk of being exposed to not just lead but the other metals in the water in Tar Creek and the sediment but also the soils along the creek. We all knew we could swallow water, and take-home residue in our shoes and socks and contaminate our own homes with the dust and mud, but she added another way we could be harmed when she listed the word “dermal.” Our skin can absorb the metals, too. Well heck.

She called all of these avenues exposure media.

The report was short, it just was followed with over 100 pages of data and that was another reason we wanted expert eyes to go through it.

We learned about algorithms - computer based toxicological models and hazard index. For 27 years the single message we were receiving from EPA was all about LEAD. So, we are pretty good at reciting the harms that element can cause. But we learned in this report, there are others we need to get reacquainted with. Dr. Robert Wright’s MATCH Project research on the babies born here found they face multiple metals associated with this site, some even detected at birth that could have only come from exposure those mothers had had in their lives.

Introduction and Background of the Tar Creek Swimming Hole Area

The Swimming Hole report revealed lead but also cadmium, arsenic, manganese, cobalt and zinc were present. Though there, the combined risk for cancer was low. That was the positive. The negative was these exposures are real and present. The risk for children to be lead poisoned is high if swimming or even picnicking in that inviting and loved Tar Creek corridor near the Frisbee Golf Course.

This eye-opening report also revealed another new term: Tribal Life Ways, a term that changes everything about the ultimate cleanup for us all.

People who live more fully in their environment receive more exposure. Because we have a varied Tribal population here, EPA evaluated this area in that way. Our Tribal Use is calculated. Knowing those results will force EPA to cleanup with that information. In other words, a better more effective and protective cleanup will be the remedy for us all because it has to be able to protect that Tribal kid who is probably your child’s best friend and constant companion and by doing that, protect BOTH.

Hands with growing plant

How safe it is here? We heard: “We live in a mineralized district.” Well, yes, it may well be we begin to realize protecting ourselves from the gifts the earth is surrounding us with will be a life-long effort. As Mike McAteer said years ago about this site, “Its in the air, soil and water, its everywhere.”

And because of this meeting, this report and the interest of the City and her residents, LEAD will be sending in our comments and our desire for more information. Widen the circle. Check all the areas along Tar Creek where people are recreating and where her flood waters reach. Give us guidance on protective measures that should be taken if use is continued, including who and how the areas are MOWED. How at risk are you or city employees after mowing the grass especially during our persistent droughts and is the grass itself loaded with metals?

LEAD Agency will be pushing for EPA to create the plan for the permanent remedy to protect humans and the environment on into the future. 40 years as a Superfund Site deserves a real plan by now!

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim





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