Growing up before digital devices, we had to get ready for the future with the toys of the day to keep us busy and engaged for hours in solitary, focused activities. We learned first to draw with a stylus decades before stylus' brief moments of importance on smart-phones. We used the Magic Slate to draw on gray plastic sheets and when we lifted the sheet, our creations went with the lift, and we could start over.
We graduated to Etch a Sketch, engaging both our hands allowing us to manage turning motions into an art form, only to lose that image when the whole device was shook, which began the chance to do it even better.
This is important now? Yes, this interactive map DEQ has developed for Ottawa County lets absolutely anyone play and move around the map to view who's property has tested clean for lead or has had the lead removed from the yard or the driveway as indicated with the little pink dot. It is important to learn how to play because you can find out if your neighbors are playing smart or if it is you who will be the last one in the neighborhood to get a pink dot and make sure children are protected from lead. (We and others have found some anomalies... that caused us questions, but we called DEQ and Ellen Isbell welcomed the questions, since she wants it to be the best instrument for us to use!)
What if we had a map with layers we could click through to see exactly how each property and those living in that spot might be affected by other aspects of the environment.
Who could develop this map? The layer DEQ has offered showing lead-free pink dots is a good start. What if we could layer the regretfully new flood plain map to see which homes and properties may be most at risk for the next flood, and perhaps by which water so we might then be able to measure amounts of metals deposited from Tar Creek and where they come to reside.
It would be valuable to have a map that also showed where the benzene plume lies beneath the neighborhood near the old BF Goodrich plant, but also showed where the waste drained to the north of the plant into the lagoon and the path the water flowed then to the river, both above ground and the path ground water might have flowed. I would want the wells on the map that had been drilled both to the Boone and the Roubidoux, all over the county, including of course the BF Goodrich wells on that property.
You need a map to show air deposition, as Bob Dylan would have said: "You don't need a weather man To know which way the wind blows." But if we had a map to show what went into the air and how it passed over us? What if this map could indicate where smell is detected and what is in that smell and where the 150,000 pounds of styrene emitted just north of Miami might land. We would want to reconstruct where all that asbestos blew in the 5 years it took to be so safely removed and how 80 years of wind deposition from the chat piles might have added to each backyard garden.
It's like we need a three dimensional map, right?
Then we could see who and where and how our environmental justice issues lies upon us and why I stay awake at night wondering how on earth this can be right.
And why one thing at a time, we will be giving you a chance to tell anyone who will listen that YOU ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE. For now the pages are out in the community, sign one to say you are tired of being FLOODED. We intend to collect these white boards and show any politician wanting votes exactly how you feel. So far you can sign them at: Intertribal Council, Papa G's, Post Properties, RIC Insurance, Farm Bureau, Allen Sign Studio, Sooner Printing, NEO Realty and Solid Rock Realty, more will go out. Let us know if you want to be part of this effort.
Any politician in office or running must acknowledge the environmental issues this community, this county faces. We don't need a cheerleader, we need all hands on deck, knowing how science and the environment effect the health of our people and the hope of the future and how to talk to people in power who can and must make decisions to protect us.
And for this task, until we have a layered map of the degradation to our air and water quality, our defenders must study where we are damaged, who may be affected and how on earth the changes can be made to make it right for the public.
Ask any politician seeking office what the legal issues are when dealing with GRDA and FERC and why it is important to listen to hydrologists and the implications new jobs bring if they also bring new hazards to our health. These are serious times and floods are looming. Popularity contests have consequences.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
Rebecca Jim is executive director of the LEAD Agency