America's Worst Superfund Site, Still Not a Pretty Picture
It's not such a pretty picture. . . nor is the story behind it, but writer-director Matt Myers, who grew up just 25 miles away, could find no peace until he told it.
Tar Creek is a hard-hitting environmental documentary of a prideful mining community and the Quapaw Indians who call this corner of Oklahoma their home — homes that sit right on top of America's largest Superfund site.
Once the most productive lead and zinc mining site on the planet, now only an environmental wasteland remains.
Set to the guitar twangs of blues legend, Watermelon Slim, Tar Creek follows a complex trail of shady deals, politicians, government agencies, and the folks caught on the front line. Designated a Superfund site in 1983, the EPA spent 30 years and more than $200 million to clean up the area, but ultimately they opted to buy out and relocate the entire community. Even now, the work is far from over.
Watch the trailer and read a short interview with the director below the fold.
Q: Why did you decide to make this film?
A: I'm just a country kid that wanted to provide a living document. This is what happened to our town. This is not just an environmental issue, it's a human issue.
Q: What was it like to make such a controversial film about a disaster so close to home?
A: It was a very emotional film to make. It makes me furious how the Bureau of Indian Affairs has mistreated these people. There's research from back in the 1930s. The mining companies and the B.I.A. knew they were poisoning the people.
Q: What was the hardest part for you?
A: There's a lot of sickness here, we have the highest rate of TB in the world, silicosis, diabetes, weird cancers. Just during the filming over 11 months we lost 20 people in a town of 800. They never got to move.
Q: What have you been doing since you finished the film?
A: We've been on a screening tour to show the film and help educate people at as many of the other 1,600 Superfund sites as we can. We want to empower other communities to take actions that can safeguard public and ecological health.
--Cyndy Patrick/image courtesy of Bullfrog Films