PBS to Air Film About Picher, Oklahoma Superfund Site

By Karen Kosko

First posted on 11-19-2007

“Once the mining companies pulled out, the acid water just completely flooded the mines. Eventually the acid water sprung from the ground and flowed into the creek, staining it burnt red,” explains Picher resident Orval “Hoppy” Ray in the documentary The Creek Runs Red

The independent film airs Tuesday night (November 20) at 10:00 pm on Ozarks Public Television. It was shot between 2002 and 2005 in and around Picher, Oklahoma, a former lead and zinc mining town and now a Superfund site.

The Environmental Protection Agency labels Picher one of the most toxic places in America. Yet a small, dwindling number of residents still cling to the place as home.

Mining went on for decades in Picher and the underbelly of the town is honeycombed with mine shafts. But most of the mines closed in 1970. Now, 100 foot tall piles of waste chat cover nearly 25,000 acres and the wind blows lead-contaminated dust in the air.

An alarmingly high percentage of local children were found to have toxic levels of lead in their blood, which prompted the EPA to act. Today, a federal buyout program is attempting to relocate individuals of the area after it was determined that most of the homes and businesses in Picher were in eminent danger of caving in.

The Creek Turns Red tells the story of the residents and by the residents of this northeast Oklahoma town that sits in the center of the Tar Creek Superfund site, a 40-square-mile area that lies mainly on Quapaw tribal lands.

For more on the film, the filmmaker, the town and its residents, visit: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/creekrunsred/ .