MIAMI - The 21st National Environmental Conference at Tar Creek will be held Sept. 17 and 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Calcagno Family Ballroom in Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College’s Carter Student Union.

The public is invited to attend and there is no registration fee for Ottawa County residents.

“This year’s conference is diverse in our range of issues and impacts to the Grand Lake Watershed,” said Earl Hatley, the Grand Riverkeeper.

An opening reception will be held Monday, Sept. 16, at 6:30 p.m., followed by a Poetry Slam at 7 p.m. at the student union.

The Poetry Slam is a first for the Conference at Tar Creek and the public is invited to attend to experience live poetry, view the cartoon artwork submitted, and meet the artists. The themes for the cartoons and poetry are “40 Years of Bad Water,” “Stuck in the Middle of the Cleanup,” and A Vision for the Future.”

Chosen entries will be displayed throughout the conference events and prizes will be awarded. There will also be an open mic session at the Poetry Slam, if time allows, which those interested can sign up for on site.

There will also be a Fish Fry and Pie Auction on Tuesday, Sep. 17, at 6 p.m. The cost for dinner is $7 for adults and $5 for children. In addition, a community meeting will be held Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. that will focus on future work by the EPA on surface water and sediment.

All events are in the NEO Student Union.

Everyone is invited to attend to learn more about Tar Creek, which runs through the NEO campus, and the many other environmental issues the community faces.

For 22 years, the Local Environmental Action Demanded (L.E.A.D.) agency and others have brought regulators, activists, academics, and tribal environmental stewards together to learn about Tar Creek and local and broader environmental issues.

“This is the public's opportunity to sit with people who have the power and the authority over the cleanup of environmental issues in their community," said Rebecca Jim, L.E.A.D.’s Executive Director and the Tar Creekkeeper.

The L.E.A.D. Agency, a non-profit environmental justice organization in partnership with the Quapaw Nation, and with support from area tribes, was organized in 1997 with the goals of educating the community on environmental concerns in northeast Oklahoma.

“We highly recommend residents to attend and become actively involved in the issues that surround us,” said Louis “Red” Mathia, LEAD Agency board president.

The LEAD Agency is also involved in taking action to counter environmental hazards that put northeast Oklahoma's residents at risk both physically and financially, conducting environmental workshops and seminars concerning environmental issues in northeast Oklahoma and other areas, and enhancing those efforts by partnering with other environmental organizations throughout Oklahoma and the nation.

The Tar Creek Conference is held annually to inform the community on the current environmental issues and give interested people the time to interact with program managers from the state and federal agencies and tribes who are doing work at the Tar Creek Superfund site.

The conference speakers will provide updates on the tri-state mining district and the plans for the future and will include new Region 6 EPA Administrator Ken McQueen, who will be introduced by Oklahoma's Secretary of Energy and Environment, Ken Wagner.

Current studies of metals in fish, birds at Tar Creek, and the lead levels in children will be discussed, as well as the passive treatment systems for removing heavy metals. The public will also learn about efforts to promote pollinators for the migration of butterflies through tribal boundaries.

The ongoing cleanup of asbestos at the abandoned BF Goodrich plant will be presented by EPA's Mike McAteer, one of this year's LEAD Agency Environmental Excellence awardees.

The featured speakers, Don Ackerman and Sheila Stogsdill, will give an insight beginning decades ago and bring us into the present.

Western Mining Action Network's Indigenous Caucus will be attending this year's conference, bringing members from Canada and throughout the U.S. They are sponsoring Dr. Sue Moodie, a toxicologist who brings her expertise in mining engineering and a background in community-based research.

Seasonal flooding and the continuing threat bring Harriet Festing with Higher Ground to this year's conference. Higher Ground is a science-based clinic that helps flood survivors affected by climate change obtain home buyouts and restart their lives.

Ottawa County residents may attend the conference free of charge, but are asked to complete the resident registration form. This will quicken conference check-in and ensure nametags and conference packets are ready when they arrive.

Those living outside Ottawa County should complete the non-resident registration form and choose among the registration fee payment options.

Partnering with the LEAD Agency are the Harvard School of Public Health, Grand Lake Mercury Study, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Center for Restoration of Ecosystems and Watersheds at the University of Oklahoma and the Waterkeeper Alliance.

For more information, visit the LEAD Agency at 223 A Street SE in Miami, call (918) 542-9399, e-mail leadagency@att.net, or log onto http://www.leadagency.org to register for the conference.