People have the right to know.

People living near Superfund sites all around the country have been organizing to get the attention of the EPA administrator so their sites can get the answer to when they get cleaned up.

I have been on conference calls this fall with citizen groups like LEAD Agency clamoring to make the hit parade with Scott Pruitt. We all thought he would choose 10 sites to get immediate and aggressive attention. And nobody on those calls wanted their sites to be number 11. As it turned out, the list got longer and our Tar Creek Superfund Site got on it. Our site made the original 1983 list. And now we made it to the final round. Who wouldn't want to be excited? WE MADE IT! But what will making it mean to us?

All those other environmental groups wanting attention for their sites are planning to visit Washington, D. C. later this month to lobby Congress and attempt to see the EPA Administrator to fight for cleanups. While Republican members of the House Committee for Energy and Commerce are asking Scott Pruitt how creating an additional list of 21 toxic sites, without any additional funding, would help those sites get cleaned up faster.

Those members are giving the EPA until Jan. 8 to tell the committee how the agency chose those sites, who was consulted: the state, the responsible parties, the Community Advisory Groups associated with the sites and how Pruitt thinks his influence on the sites will improve cleanup efforts. LEAD Agency is the Community Advisory group EPA has associated the Tar Creek Superfund site with since 2000 and we will be glad to allow Congressional members to know EPA did not consult with us about The List.

EPA funding has been slashed, and the Superfund Program is getting cut, others are fighting to have clean water, clean air, and clean soil so they have healthy communities and futures to believe will be healthier for their grandchildren. Northeast Oklahoma, Ottawa County and those living downstream waiting for the big cleanup need to begin to get the urgency to seek the big answer, when will this place, these streams be clean? People have the right to know, but we have the responsibility to ask. And Scott Pruitt is learning that Congress has the right to know as well.

Years ago we wondered if the fish were safe to eat. Dr. Edward Gustavson, a Developmental Pediatrician treated "Multiple small children with acute lead (Pb) toxicity with levels over 50 requiring acute cardiorespiratory support and chelation following Tar Creek fish ingestion." What we learned at the latest TASC meeting was EPA has figured out how many fish from the waters of the perennial streams, rivers and the headwaters of the Grand Lake tribal members and the general public are eating. They also have figured out how many days per year we spend in these waters, and how many days our children enjoy them. The figures they have derived will guide EPA cleanup standards for this site.

Now I want you to think and if you are old enough, remember how many fish you used to eat from these streams, rivers, and lake and how many days you used to spend in those waters yourself. And now knowing what you know about our waters and our fish, have you pulled fewer fish to shore, and eaten fewer, and spent less time in and about these waters? Is this the way you want the future? I am banking on the big cleanup. I got my kayak ready for the Tar Creekkeeper to patrol the deeper parts of Tar Creek and head on down the Neosho and make it to Twin Bridges. I am believing in the future to be better and will take my fishing pole with me and hope to see you out there, too.

We are still asking are the fish safe to eat? but also when will they be? and now with a familiar cadence "How much fish would a fisherman eat if a fisherman could eat our fish?"

If we knew our fish were safe to eat, how much would we eat? If that answer could help EPA plan a cleanup that ultimately made our fish safe to eat, then how much would we eat? Be specific. The better EPA understands us helps show how seriously they need to be with their cleanup plan.

There is still time to make a comment to EPA about the Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund Tables and their Exposure Assumptions. Won't hurt to share your comments on what fish and how much you and each of your family members eat, where it is caught. Be specific. If you are spending time somehow in contact with mine water discharges, add how many days a year, how many hours. If you or your children get in any of the streams, creeks, rivers, or the Twin Bridges area mention number of days per year and how many of those days you or they came in contact with the sediment.

EPA has the right to know and has the responsibility to protect our health and the environment and Congress is asking how that can be done with less money.

Comments can be sent to Janetta Coats: coats.janetta@epa.gov before January 17.

Respectfully submitting my comments ~ Rebecca Jim

Rebecca Jim is the executive director of the LEAD Agency (www.leadagency.org).