Collinsville, Oklahoma is the home of what was once a fuel and manufacturing site. From 1914 to 1925, it was a zinc smelter. During that time, the soil, sediment, and surface water were all contaminated with hazardous chemicals. It closed after it was deemed too contaminated for use and declared a federal “superfund” site. The land was added to the National Priorities List in 1999.
Too often these superfund sites are left to die a slow death, as they sit loaded with contamination – the cleanup almost as messy as the site itself. This has definitely been the case for a more well-known superfund site in Oklahoma, Tar Creek.
The Collinsville site, not far from where I live, has become an environmental disaster story with a happy ending.
The EPA began cleaning up the site three years ago, and the contamination has been consolidated to one grass covered mound that is believed to be contained. Now clover grows to help protect the land where the soil and surface water was once poisoned by industrial pollution.
Clover is an ideal food source for bees. Two honeybee companies decided to bring hives to Collinsville in hopes of repurposing the land in a sustainable way. It now provides a home for bees, a species that has become one of the casualties of pollution.
Researchers found honeybees can be used to monitor pollution:
“Scientists from UBC’s Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (PCIGR) analyzed honey from urban beehives in six Metro Vancouver neighborhoods. They tested for minuscule levels of lead, zinc, copper and other elements and carried out lead isotope analyses—akin to fingerprinting—to identify where the lead came from.” – from a study in Nature Sustainability
Bees are vital to our ecosystem and we need to find more ways to protect them:
“Bees are perfectly adapted to pollinate, helping plants grow, breed and produce food. They do so by transferring pollen between flowering plants and so keep the cycle of life turning. The vast majority of plants we need for food rely on pollination, especially by bees: from almonds and vanilla and apples to squashes.” – Friends of the Earth
Projects like the one near me in Collinsville shows us we can turn our polluted legacy into something hopeful – a place to keep our pollinators buzzing.
A new documentary called The Pollinators highlights the importance of bees as it takes us on a journey around the US, following beekeepers as their honeybees pollinate flowers that become the food that we eat. It shows us why we need to keep fighting to end pollution and protect the bees.