Throughout the summer she got lots of positive attention. Over 600 people signed the Clean Water Protection Ordinance petitions circulators carried throughout Miami to grant the citizens the Right to clean water and a Healthy Tar Creek and would give Tar Creek the Rights nature had bestowed to her. Those rights would allow her to flow...
We were proud of the great attention this effort brought to our often neglected stream by you, your neighbors, friends and family members. More registered voters were needed to get the ordinance to the ballot for a vote by the people. But really we feel the people did vote in a way. They spoke up with each stroke of their pen as they signed their name acknowledging the need the ordinance would have addressed.
In July Todd Stewart, the Oklahoma University photography professor came to Tar Creek to take a few photos for the Anthropocene Alliance. A couple of children met us there and were part of the story he was shooting. But others arrived un-perplexed by our presence and jumped right into the water our 2 girls had been so careful not to allow their skin to touch. The set of boys did the improbable. They swam. Diving under and through the culverts at the low water bridge and laughing. It was a dream. Something I longed to see: children loving the creek and using the water as their grandparents would have been able to do. My teacher friend spoke to them about the water and that it was bad water, but from their reaction those words made no impact on the summer's fun as they persisted with their frolicking.
The good times at the creek persisted through the rest of July, all of August and September, the end of their summer.
Over 25 years ago, we crafted warning signs for bumper stickers Don't swim or fish in Tar Creek funded by the ATSDR and the Ottawa County Health Department. Then 10 years later we had them printed again, mindful that DON'T messages are a turn-off. So we did the same design but added NOT YET. But who wouldn't begin to wonder if NOT YET... THEN WHEN???? When happened this summer in a big way with the swimming and the fishing. Our children decided that message would not deter them in any way. The City was told at a City Council meeting that children were swimming in the creek. Not once but twice.
Reclaiming that water showed their belief it was not harming them with exposures to it. They also claimed it by damming it. Trapping it as their own. They dammed to the north and put effort in constructing a bigger dam so the water would become deeper.
We discovered this before Labor Day and a small team of us breached both of those dams so water could flow through. Many of the rocks that were used were heavy, taking me and another person to move. Our deconstruction continued until the syringe was found among the rocks. We had no protective gear so we stopped our actions.
I attended a public meeting held by the City about zoning, speaking before it convened to City representatives about the dam and the Clean Water Act violation it was, since restricting the flow of any stream in that way breaks the law. I stood at the microphone to say the same and that it had been reported as a complaint to the state.
We were sure the City would remove the dams and post signage to protect our children from the heavy metals we know are in Tar Creek. There was more evidence of use every time we have gone. More rocks on the dam, the trees had been hacked with a small ax to make footholds to climb for jumping into water. Later rope swings, steps hammered into a tree to leap in the water. More old trees are cut and injured, the very trees that are keeping the streambed from eroding in flood events. The fire circle and then the continued effort to dam under the BNSF railroad bridge, using the chat as fill. The very same chat that EPA is spending millions to rid from your county to protect children from lead poisoning.
So the alphabet soup of federal and state agencies have been notified ATSDR ODEQ EPA USFW OCC OWRB GRDA including Army Corps. If we use these letters like the game SCRABBLE we can spell many words like: GREED, DROP, DEAD, SOAP, FEE, but we cannot spell the one word we need which is HELP.
42 years this community has waited to use their Tar Creek. It is time EPA does their work.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim