EPA’s Region 6 2-Day Environmental Justice Summit was held by zoom and I was invited to present during the first afternoon session.
All was going well, until my video stopped most appropriately on the mine water discharge image that looked to me like the eye of a monster peering out of the superfund site and the eye frozen as it bled that iron-colored water across that 8-degree winter day’s landscape. I will never forget the first time the filmmaker, Jennifer Little, a professor at the University of the Pacific, showed me that drone footage. Now, anyone tuned into the EJ Summit that day will have our Tar Creek’s “eternal flow of evil” embedded in their recollections.
My presentation was short, just a review of LEAD Agency’s interactions with EPA over the last 30 years. It all started at the Miami Public Library, while sitting at one of those round tables, reading. That’s what most people do there. We were reading the EPA documents in what is called the “Superfund Repository.” At that time, they were sets of very large 3-ring binders full of pages of terms, phrases and data none of us had any background to understand.
We have played by the rules, used the tools offered, the Technical Assistance Grant, the Environmental Justice Grant, the training program for workers in a superfund site, SJTI and now accessing EPA’s off-site consultants to review documents and present them back to us and the community, so we can understand what-on-earth EPA is up to and what science it is based on. Their assigned hope for each of the presenters was that we would provide next steps EPA should take in each of our communities. So that is what I did. The list isn’t long, but ends with “get a plan” though, I wanted to add, “for God’s sake, figure this out and get ‘r done! We are one of the original superfund sites and turning 40 years old this month and still on the list, and still not safe for humans.
Earthea Nance, the Region 6 Administrator responded to my list in the zoom meeting and our hopes with a statement that she had learned about Tar Creek from me during her visit to our office and had a list from that meeting she was already working through for our site. We were told this is the NEW EPA. I had asked they consider more than ONE contaminant of concern and she assured us all that has changed, too and mixtures are now a “thing” EPA acknowledges!
Instead of sitting down for the summit’s second day, this beautiful morning I cut firewood for a few hours in my pajamas, and ran some errands before tuning back in to the summit. As it turned out, I was just in time for the breakout session for Oklahoma. It was there I realized how special LEAD Agency is. We are the only environmental justice organization now in Oklahoma. Only? WHAT? All these oil wells? All this fracking? Coal-fired power plants, Mega-agricultural runoff, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, industrial pollution, and no one is speaking up? No other group has jumped through EPA’s hoops. We are tiny, but the staff we have are top-notch, but we are made stronger by growing our membership. Drop by and complete an application for membership or call and do one over the phone. Got time on your hands? Come by and volunteer, we could use your help.
Being the only environmental justice organization leaves lots on our plate. Help us lift and carry and learn the language we will need so the agencies that can help us do what we need done.
Let’s guide this “new” EPA down a path that makes our environment better and improves the lives we live and the place we leave the generations to come.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
My EPA Recommendations
Revisit the Original ROD and reconsider the Fund-Balancing Waiver Note: “Future remedial actions may be required if selected alternatives do not adequately mitigate the risk to human health”
· Revisit the 2014 Remedial Action Optimization Report and implement
· Prioritize actions to protect the environment and reduce human exposures
· Implement and quit stalling the cleanup
· Is Mine waste as a commodity the best answer at this site?
· When will this mine waste INSIDE homes be removed?
· Finalize a plan for completion
u EPA needs adequate funding
u Mega sites deserve to be completed not placated
u Communities deserve pathways with guides through EPA
u Sites with multiple exposures should not be limited by the single Contaminate of Concern
u EPA must continue to re-examine their outreach methods
u Recruit the best and brightest and encourage their questions
u Not everything should be VOLUNTARY when there is a known danger