How do we get it? With a Strong EPA that supports the Superfund and how does that happen? By following the law that provides a tax not on us, but on companies that produce products that pollute. When what we call Superfund became law as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act or (CERCLA) it was like it was made for us. It was established by Congress in 1980 after Love Canal and other toxic sites in the country got so much attention.
Tar Creek began pouring out heavy metals just a year before CERCLA was established and it was put on their original National Priorities List where it remains to this day. Remember that cartoon which included the phrase, "I'm only a Bill on Capitol Hill?" That tone pretty much says it, Tar Creek is not only on the list but ranked high has not budged since then. And CERCLA got a nickname because of the way it raised funding for cleaning up polluted sites, it's called Superfund because in the law there was a provision with a vision for the future. The law established a tax that chemical and petroleum industries had to pay and that tax funded work that needed to be done immediately to protect human health and the environment until the original polluter could be found and made to pay for it, if any could be found. That system worked well, until Congress refused to re-instate that tax in 1995 and the fund went broke.
Now that Congress has given corporations the biggest tax break in history, it looks like a perfect time for the administrator for the EPA the only federal agency with PROTECTION as a middle name to ask for that tax to be reinstated so we can have the funding to make Tar Creek and the thousand other sites on that list whole again.
LEAD Agency is sending a message to Scott Pruitt now Administrator for EPA, Oklahoma's former Attorney General and letting him know our big wish. Our 6 foot long banner has been signed by countless individuals and still has a bit of room left. We will mail it just in time for Christmas, so drop by our office to wedge your name on it if you haven't done so yet.
What would a clean Tar Creek do for us? Just imagine it. Our kids could go to the creek again, take their fishing poles, catch a fish and bring it home for dinner. They could wander down to the creek with a friend and their dogs and let them lap up some refreshing clean water, they could wade in the summer and in some of the deeper areas take a swim. NEO students might find themselves with a book and a blanket down by the creek studying before exams. Not to say they might not see a few parties start up along the banks some evenings.
When the creek got up in your yard, and regretfully into your house during a flood, the fear would be gone after the water receded that heavy metals laid down in your carpet, in your back yard soils. And that stain might finally weather away from the new bridges constructed to cross it. The signs along the creek would go up because it would be a creek we respected and cared about. The pride of being a river and creek city would return. The blight years for Tar Creek and her name would be over. The vale would be lifted on Ottawa County and businesses would want to locate here, clean non-polluting businesses, because we would and could recruit them to come to a place where water runs clean through communities that care to protect it and have fought to have it.
I want that for Christmas and so do you. And Scott Pruitt may have helped us by adding Tar Creek to the latest updated list of superfund sites set to get more aggressive attention as was just recently announced.
I remember as a child telling my parents what I wanted for Christmas and sometimes, I got just exactly what I wanted and sometimes, I had to act like it was, because whether it was a doll, yes, but it was not the one in the catalog that I hid and they never saw. And then to the last dying day, never to admit there was ever disappointment in the gift received. All that to say, sometimes you don't get want you ask for. But here Tar Creek sits on Scott Pruitt's list, and what comes from it, may please us or may leave us wondering why he bothered and us wondering why we asked.
Tar Creek is not just Tar Creek to EPA and Scott Pruitt, and this placement on the list is bigger than our creek, it is the whole Tar Creek Superfund site, the 40+ square mile site full of complicated issues from the legacy mining that previously made us prosper. When you make your wish for a Clean Tar Creek, see it all, the creek running clean, the land cleaned, fish we can eat and our children running lead-free.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
Rebecca Jim is the executive director of the LEAD Agency (www.leadagency.org).