There will be a time in the not too distant future that Tar Creek will be safe enough to swim, and may have fish we can catch and eat, but we are going to have to wait and we are going to have to speak up and want it.

It was beginning to feel like summer with the heat and the extreme heat advisories extended for the rest of the week. I grew up in Big Spring, Texas and we knew it was hot when we really could cook an egg on the sidewalk, though I only wasted one egg finding it to be true. The heat there is different, dry and unrelenting and the weather report always mentioned the humidity being pretty much close to zero.

Water then, just as now, was what we sought for relief. Big Spring actually has a big spring and it pretty much was the reason the town was built halfway between El Paso and Dallas. Six hours either way, that is how you measure distance in Texas, by the hours and on a good day by the number of tumbleweeds crossing the road as one of the only distractions, indicating wind, which can cool you down with low humidity, but not as much as water would. So as a kid, going to the city swimming pool, or taking a little ride to Lake Thomas were treats, but the usual daily dose was the water sprinkler in the yard keeping a little bit of green grass growing in the front yard no matter how many times you ran through it.

All this to say, water is still the best solution to oppressive heat. And children will find water and get in it, as evidenced by the children who have been seen down along and in Tar Creek. Why wouldn’t they get in it? It is there, running right through neighborhoods and at the edge of parks just as the early city founders must have imagined would be delightful for the future of the City of Miami.

Why wouldn’t children be in it? There are no warning signs. In fact there are no signs in town indicating it even has a name, certainly not a name claimed at present. But it was a factor in the layout to have a river town with a creek running through it.

For now, children shouldn’t play in Tar Creek, though perhaps their parents may have been able to swim in it, for sure their grandparents probably had many adventures in and along that creek, especially in the summer because water is a for sure cure for summer time heat. For now we need to let children know they will have to wait a while longer.

There will be a time in the not too distant future that Tar Creek will be safe enough to swim, and may have fish we can catch and eat, but we are going to have to wait and we are going to have to speak up and want it. Tar Creek’s fate should not be political, but it has been or it would have been cleaned up long ago. We are going to have to push and demand the whole Tar Creek Superfund be done and done in a way that is truly protective for the environment and for human health. Right now there is work being done, it is happening and you can find out more at the 19th National Environmental Conference at Tar Creek on September 26 & 27 at NEO, on the banks of Tar Creek.

Back to those children, their environment, is usually their own yard, and Ottawa County parents can call DEQ to have it tested, but what I learned this week is if you have visible chat, if you have young children, they may be able to work faster to help make your yard safer for your children.

All properties should be checked in Ottawa County while there is still a Superfund to pay for it. The most efficient way to protect children is to make sure the environment is clean. Let’s not wait until another child is poisoned. Norway doesn’t require proof that a child has been lead-poisoned in order for the government to act. They implemented a clean soil program and having a lead-contaminated environment triggers action. Norway’s soil guideline for children’s play areas was 100 parts per million ppm in 2011, then was lowered to 60 ppm. The U.S. standard set by the EPA for children’s play areas is 400 ppm, but Ottawa County is using 500 ppm for action.

Bruce Lanphear asked, “if we know that lead is toxic, that there is no safe level, that it’s associated with the development of ADHD, diminished intellectual ability, diminished academic abilities, hypertension, chronic kidney disease in adults, and it’s cost beneficial, why aren’t we doing more?”

It costs money to do environmental cleanups and there is never enough money, but that is a decision that can be changed and we could be the force asking for the right to clean soil just like Norway did to go along with that clean water we want, just like Norway has. Co-author of Lead Wars, David Rosner described lead poisoning as the longest running childhood epidemic in American history and an issue that could have been addressed a century ago. The public ignored this issue, and our government has not done enough. But our kids want to get cool in the summers and we need to make sure the water they play in is safe.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

— Rebecca Jim is executive director of the LEAD Agency