Never before in history has our water been in such peril as it is now from fossil fuel use and extraction, industrial waste and agricultural runoff. For all of these reasons, waterkeepers around the country and around the world began to stand up for the water bodies near and dear to them. They began to give our water a voice. Those voices have joined together and as members, one at a time they have joined forces to make the Waterkeeper Alliance the most important organization in the world focused on the stewardship and protection of the world's water bodies.
LEAD Agency was in the process of applying to have a waterkeeper affiliated with the Waterkeeper Alliance, when I met Robert Kennedy, Jr. on the Douthit Bridge in 2003. After he saw the water in Tar Creek, he told me to call his office that day and the process was expedited. He was later quoted to say, "Tar Creek is broken and can't be fixed. I've been to dozens and dozens of Superfund sites located all over the country, but I have never seen anything like this. It's just amazing to see these towns right in the middle of it."
Tar Creek is still running much like it was then, much like it was when George Mayer's horses were stained and John Mott saw it when the fish died in 1979. It wasn't enough to ask for a waterkeeper for Tar Creek. We needed a keeper for the whole watershed since there were other mine water discharges entering our watershed flowing into the Neosho River, while Spring River in the same way is receives mine discharges and runoff from chat filled creeks and streams making Spring River more metal loaded than the Neosho River, these two heavy metal rivers meet and form the Grand River with the Grand River damned leaving the metals trapped in that sink with ever more added every day.
Grand River needed a keeper and LEAD Agency has had Earl L. Hatley in that position since 2003.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to attend Waterkeeper Alliance yearly conferences, once in New York City after 9/11 had occurred and another time in La Paz, Mexico. Both had memorable speakers, but the Keepers from around the world, dedicated to the protection of endangered waterways and estuaries, bays and aquifers were striking. This is a strong minded group, passionate and on point. LEAD's Board president, Louis Mathia and secretary/treasurer, Tony Booth attended additional conferences. The one in New Orleans Tony and Earl attended had a Bourdon Street Parade for the Waterkeepers.
The executive director of the Waterkeeper Alliance Marc Yaggi will give the Keynote Address Sept 30 at 9:15 in the Coleman Theater during the Tar Creek Conference. We think it is about time for him to see why we have been saying for years: No More Tar Creeks, extraction has to stop! The mining and drilling companies know how to do their work, but CLEANUP and restoration are not a part of their budget. They can be forced to clean up their messes, but usually comply only when threatened by litigation or fines.
A month ago the Animas River turned "Tar Creek orange" after a 3 million gallon mine water spill. "That would be a week's worth of mine drainage discharged near Commerce - and would not include discharges near Douthat Bridge, the Beaver Creek watershed and elsewhere. All of these have been bleeding since 1979 flowing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 36 years down to that beautiful sink of ours - Grand Lake."
Waterkeepers around the world fight polluters, so when you listen to Marc Yaggi, you will hear the stories of the past, and the amazing work these keepers are doing. You will be inspired and humbled like I have been. You will want to be part of the effort, and we expect you will be.
Robert Kennedy, Jr. thought Tar Creek was broken and could not be fixed, but if you attend the 17th National Environmental Tar Creek Conference Tuesday's morning sessions you will learn it can be fixed and just exactly how it can be and when it is going to happen. I will be taking notes and intend to KEEP them.