The lead and zinc mined out just north of us we all are proud to say, "won both wars." But look at what was left behind and the money it is costing for the cleanup and the restoration of the land and watershed. Those metals were essential elements, valued for the effort to end all wars. And our Tar Creek who still continues to bleed, is the last remaining casualty of war.
They didn't kill her, but ensured that the damage would be long lasting, staining the bridges she flows under and every sock of every child who has tromped through those waters for the last 43 years come November. The neighborhoods, parks, front and back yards get her sediments loaded with those precious metals deposited on them when her flood waters reach out beyond her banks, putting any child living there at risk. At risk for simply being, playing and walking those cute little feet back into the house where their baby brother crawls.
These legacy mining sites are not rare. The challenge is upon you to find a site like ours that has been cleaned up. The companies know how to make money but they are not committed to the "cleanup after yourself" mentality we instill in kindergartners. They just can't make any money that way.
Essential elements as the answer to the Climate Crisis is the dream these dirty mining companies have been longing to have announced. Half of our country is at risk for the superfund sites of the future because beneath the ground lie these rare earth metals that will power us out of the fossil fuel phase of the modern world and will take us into the "clean" energy life we hope will save the planet.
But at what risk? We had to learn the riches only make the rich richer and leave the mess for the locals to learn to deal with. For us, we learned to love the mining district for the jobs they produced, with the chat piles a source material used in countless ways, saving our cities and county tax payer money when used as cheap gravel. We valued those mountain of mine waste for the recreation they provided, cheap fun, sand dunes, to climb and slide down. We loved the rugged features on the landscape they became and have regret as OUR chat piles come down, while some loved the bit of money they earned with each ton hauled to the distributors.
We only learned later what the company men probably knew already. They regretted they didn't have the technology to remove the REST of the metals from the chat. They knew it was loaded, but didn't think it cost effective to work those piles again, when they could walk away and hope they got their bankruptcy papers turned in before the poisoning effects were discovered.
In a song written and performed by EPA's Bill Honker on an Earth Day 22 years ago in Dallas, Texas, these lyrics in the chorus:
A Mining town knows all too well that the mining costs go on
And you never see the final bill till the mining company's gone
The things the miners left behind tell a tale we won't forget
A few may profit from the mines, but many pay the debt.
What have we earned? Lost I.Q. devalues each individual, but steals also the potential of communities because our people are our collective future. Each of us exposed to our lead carry it in every organ of the body. The other precious metals in bed with lead, are known to attack our bodies in other unique ways. Costing many years of life-expectancy.
But what have we learned? We are the forefront of the push to mine. We can speak up. NO MORE TAR CREEKS. Value the clean water running through your communities and the landscape of rolling hills, plains or valleys. Speak up to journalists about the legacy mining has given you.
The announcement we received this week that Tar Creek made American Rivers' Most Endangered Rivers Top Ten, for the second year in a row! Mining did this. It took this vital stream, this valued creek and has no plans to return it to us.
The players with power have failed us.
They have failed to protect our lives, our potential, and our property. The connection is clear. What flows down Tar Creek, that load of metals every day for 43 years goes somewhere. It ends up in our Grand Lake o' the Cherokees in the sediment and in many of our fish species. That lake backs up in flood events and Tar Creek lays her heavy metal load on us flooding our homes and destroying property.
These players need to find a big table, pull up a chair and stay long enough to mesh out the formal Memorandum of Understanding to work together for US. You can help us make this table setting event happen.
EPA, FERC, Army Corps of Engineers and GRDA and demand it.
Our little refugee from the last wars longs to run clean for you again.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim