You've probably heard about the tornadoes that struck the midwest this weekend. While tornadoes in Oklahoma are nothing new, or even remarkable, what I found of interest was where these ones hit.
Picher, Oklahoma, home of one of the first Superfund sites in the US - Tar Creek.
Picher has a long and sordid past. According to a University of Michigan study and report, the land was seized from the local Quapaw indian tribe for a mining company to mine zinc and lead. In the 70 odd years that the mines operated, they left behind large piles of mining waste, which contain nearly double the amount of lead the would normally cause the EPA to declare it as toxic waste. There are 165 MILLION TONS of this waste in piles up to 200 feet tall, left on public lands and residential areas. The local ground water has almost three times the allowable levels for lead, 20 times the allowable levels for cadmium, and 25 times the allowable level for zinc. It's probably safer for their kids to eat pennies than drink the water.
In addition, the mines left 300 miles of tunnels behind. These have filled with water in the past 40 years, and the concentrate of chemicals has enough acid to erode the mine supports, causing cave-ins under homes and businesses.
This has been going on for 30 years. As expected, there is massive wildlife damage and significantly higher cases of birth defects.
The government, to their credit in this case, has said 'look, we can't fix this, so we'll pay to move you to a safe area. But, as you can imagine, there are a few diehard idiots, no doubt making life decisions under the influence of lead poisoning.
Now, a tornado whips through, destroying homes and business, killing 13 and injuring over 150, in a town with a population of about 800. In 2000 there were 1600 residents, half of whom have moved with the help of the feds.
If there's anyone left there who wants to stay, at what point do you say 'ok, I get it'? Now, I'm far from a religious person, but we all know the types living in rural northeastern Oklahoma. Don't you people think you're being told something?
And on a related note, the same storm system hit the town of Racine, Missouri, destroying a business owned by Bill and Jane Lant - are you ready for this? - A combination feed store and bridal shop.
Oh the images that come to mind........