-- Douglas Adams' classic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
There have been many numbers associated with Tar Creek and her Superfund Site. It has been years since we were listed first on EPA's National Priorities List as a hazardous site in 1983. But it is about to happen again. Our Tar Creek will be number one again any day. First in the hearts of many, first to be forgotten, but the first will be last as it has seemed to have become Tar Creek's fate to be last for a real cleanup through EPA's Superfund Program.
Miami has a long relationship with Tar Creek, having nestled next to and built up between both a river and a creek. But that relationship soured when she began to bleed orange and the fish ceased to live and flourish. Miami turned her back on her, drove over, ignored the stains on the trees along her banks, failed to complain to EPA about the orange stains on the new bridges. Forgot to mention at open meetings that their creek had literally been stolen from them, even though she never quit flowing through town.
Tar Creek was abandoned by the EPA because her superfund site was "complicated" and is one of what they call a "mega" site. But mega became a thing in the last administration, and as such should have gotten us the attention and the funding to "get her done." Although some funding came this way, it has not done a thing as yet to deal with this creek's issue, the mine water discharge sending one million gallons of water contaminated with heavy metals every day for get this: forty-two years, that is over 15,000 days.
EPA is sending money this way, I am grateful. Any resident in Ottawa County can have their yard tested for lead and if found, that funding will pay for that to be removed and clean soil to be brought to replace it. But I do worry when our Tar Creek leaves her banks and heads to your cleaned yard, she will leave heavy metals as she recedes, because it is her nature. She is loaded and gets dosed up everyday, like clockwork.
Chat piles we have been familiar seeing are going down in size, and some completely removed and green fields can be found growing where EPA, and State of Oklahoma and Quapaw Nation's efforts are evident. But chat along Tar Creek's watershed bleeds and meets the mine discharge and brings that on downstream through fields and into Miami, through neighborhoods, sides up beside the NEO campus before ducking under the Steve Owens bridge and heading out of town.
There was a time Tar Creek had another name. If you lived in Cardin, you would have seen it on street signs as Tar River, reminiscent of the mining camp by that name, where its water was used in the mill and provided drinking water for residents. The creek was “a lovely stream, banked with luxuriant foliage and with water as clear as glass. Its banks are favorite resting and recreation places, the children of Tar River delighting in its refreshing beauty.” (source: Ed Keheley)
She floods there, too and for many years there was a tall marker along the road with numbers indicating feet, so you might know how deep that water was, as a deterrent to those who might think first before trying to drive through it.
Your first impression in Miami when looking at Tar Creek, many would think it looks better, not so orange, but that is because it is green which is another kind of problem. But if you stand back and notice the trees along the banks, that familiar color remains and is re-deposited every time the rains bring high water.
All this brings me back to numbers. Yes, were first and worst. But this year, is our year. This year we have the answer. This year we have hope. This year we still have a damaged creek, in fact we have a once endeared creek that has become endangered.
And this will bring us to action. Why? Because the answer is 42, the answer to not only the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything else that you may have read about in Douglass Adams' classic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But 42 is how many years we have put up with, and waited for what Ryan Lovell called that "eternal flow of evil" to stop. And this year, we are going to stand up as a community and say, "We are not going to take it anymore." The action starts with us. The action to speak up, stand up, to want this creek back, once and for all, and for good.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim