Together we have thought and pondered. We have tuned up our voices. And practiced believing our lives matter. There have been alignments and possibilities and even hopes for the future. But sometimes it may be as easy as filling a chair, it could be that even a set of silent sentenials could set the trap.
Are you in? Will you take your morning coffee with us Wednesday? We will be gathering at the Calcagno Family Ballroom in the NEO Student Union and we will sit down together and listen. The efforts EPA and DEQ have accomplished will be set out for us. We will learn what the Quapaws have been doing.
We won't get a break because Kate, the woman who has worked with LEAD Agency for the last 2 years will fill the screen virtually showing all of us gathered together just how at risk we still are. After these decades of work by EPA, the corridors Tar and Lytle flow through and down, she will show you images that will take your breath away. Chat piles lay there as quietly guarding the sky line and resting at the edges of these waterways, but then Kate adds the layer to the map, the FEMA flood layer and there you see those chat piles sitting, marinating in those waters, dissolving, releasing loads those fine particles of heavy metals. NONE of which have been measured to my knowledge. What has been calculated so earnestly by our friends at OU has been what comes discharging and charging into Tar Creek as seen from the bridge on 40 Road: None of the rest of these chat piles' contributions are included.
How did we miss this? How have they failed to deal with the obvious? Move the piles that poison those downstream. When was that going to happen? What decade of work will it begin? Kate takes us downstream as she moves our eyes to where the water flows next. We skirt by Commerce without seeing a single home at risk, and slide past North Miami, and right into Miami. The peninsula of the city practically encircled by water. We know this happens, but to SEE it, to look closely as we see beneath the light blue and the yellow colored bands, we see homes. Those homes are flooded by those waters. These are our neighbors, perhaps even your own home is seen. It is a shock, so many. But listen to the numbers: 95 structures are in the 2% or what used to be called the "500 year flood" and hold on in the 1% or "100 year flood" there are .... 1480 structures. Are you paying attention? NOW get this: 253 structures are in the floodway. THEY are going to always flood.
This is serious.
But Kate backs us up and shows us again that flood water is contaminated by the chat piles and when it floods, it brings that bad water and dissolved chat and lays it out on the yards and parks and college grounds and that is absorbed and accepted by these properties, until it is dug up and removed by OU4, which is the operable unit that remediates yards contaminated with lead. Ben Loring asked a question just a few weeks ago on a conference call with these agency professionals about re-contaminated yards. When will they be checked. The call went silent.
Finally our friend from DEQ asked was there a particular property he was interested in? Kate takes up back to the map, there she illuminates the pink/purple dots on the yards that have tested "clean" and those others that had to have their soil or driveways removed and replaced. Not nearly as many pink dots as illuminate Commerce and North Miami, but there.
What she does next she is able to do because of the work Gina Manders did in 2007 with the help of Juli Mathews Ford. Kate turns on the colors. Many of you know these colors. Blue dots were homes that got permits to rebuild after that terrible flood. Red dots could not rebuild. Each dot filled with memories of struggles and losses.
Losses we know now didn't have to happen. There are a lot of wrongs that have happened here. And these people who are sitting in that room with me have a right to be wondering, just how this can be.
Kate is going to hand it over to a gentleman from an organization called Buy-In and he is going to introduce a survey that we will invite you to complete. All that righteous anger can be channeled by completing a series of questions, many of you have never been asked. If you are not coming, it is ok, if you live in areas prone to flooding, we will mail these surveys to you, or we will come knock on your door or call you on the phone. This is your turn. Tell how flooding has affected you and your feelings about what can come next for you and your property.
The Tar Creek Conference hadn't even made it to lunch on the first day. We will save you a seat. Come spend 2 days. Change it up, be the change you want to see.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim