21 years ago, we were all younger, more able and many still had our parents, who we thought would live forever. That was the year President Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice, a gallon of gas was $1.15, Google was founded and Viagra approved by FDA. Peace came to Northern Ireland and a little known man, Osama bin Laden threatened the lives of all Jews and Crusaders.
Tar Creek was already running orange and had been for nearly 20 years. It is still pouring metals downstream every day. Every 3 days we have the equivalent of what is known at the Animas River spill that occurred a few years ago. But our Tar Creek has been doing that for 40 years. A long time friend called me yesterday to ask about the corn seed she had sent me. She hadn't planted her seed because that river water had contaminated her soil, so she sent it to Oklahoma, to better soil. But then the rains came and continued all summer.
Remember the soggiest summer ever? No matter how well tended our gardens were, drowned gardens do not produce. But I saved her seed, there will be another summer, another time to plant. But her soil will not fare so well. Contaminated soils loaded with heavy metals like she has now, do not heal themselves. These metals will have to be removed. The people all along that river will have to organize and prove to the EPA their land is harmed and fight for clean soil and wait for the fix.
We are in the middle of our fix here in the Tar Creek Superfund Site, yes, right in the middle. Rather stuck. We never really fought for the cleanup, so it is fitting we got the cleanup we asked for. Slow, year after year, yard by yard it is occurring. The Quapaws have sped up the pace of the take down of the chat piles on tribal land. How did that happen? Their Chairman, John Berrey has spoken, loudly and forcefully to politicians and federal agents and he is getting results. The Quapaw tribal members' lands are being cleared off. The mess is off to its new home, the man-made structure looking like a mesa in the west, on their land. But stacked higher and higher. It will be seen, since it will be the tallest structure in the county, if it isn't already.
All those initialed people are coming sort of like a reunion. They have grown old together, helping our land get better, protecting more children every year from the source material that lead poisoned so many. We are going to recognize two of them and a couple of our own local people who found the work that improved our hope for the future. You are welcome to join us in these formal recognitions as we plaque them.
The EPA will be in attendance. of course but missing Rafael Casanova, who you have read about over the years in this column. He passed away due to the exposure he received from asbestos. His memory will be honored and we will call forward EPA's Janetta Coats to thank her for the respectful way she has been to our community these long years. We will surprise yet another when we ask Mike McAteer to come forward. He served time with the Tar Creek Superfund site and came back and with the long wet summer was able to safely clean up LOTS of the BF Goodrich site of the stuff that killed his colleague, Rafael.
Mike McAteer will update our community on the summer's work and what comes next. Will we be surprised? I hope so. ODEQ, more initials, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality's Ray Roberts will update the community on the Benzene and what the latest studies are showing and what actions will be taken to make us safer soon.
We'll allow questions, because we all will have them about the BF Goodrich site. But also we will hear about our aquifers, the Boone and the Roubidoux. USGS, the United States Geological Service and the OWRB, Oklahoma Water Resources Board are conducting a study of the water quality and quantity in them. They will be able to let us know if they are seeing indications those Mega-Poultry houses may be drawing down more than their share of water.
These two sessions should be filled to capacity. Without water, good, clean water, what do you have? The 900 children going to school near BF Goodrich need that safer air to breath, too. Be like John Berrey, be there and be heard.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim