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Chicken-Fried News: Funky town

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INGVARD ASHBY
  • Ingvard Ashby

In our younger and more vulnerable years, Chicken Fried News’ father gave us some advice that we have been turning over in our minds ever since: “Whoever smelt it,” he said, “dealt it.” Following flooding in the Tulsa area, however, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) reportedly offered residents a somewhat different suggestion.

“If something doesn’t smell right or look right, we tell people to call our hotline,” Erin Hatfield, ODEQ’s director of communications, told Tulsa World earlier this month.

While some smells — the sour stench of rotten vegetation, for example — might not be cause for concern, strong chemical or sewage stank can indicate serious issues that require professional remediation. Even free of toxic chemicals and fecal matter (And who among us can make such a claim?) standing water can pose a health hazard as a breeding ground for bacteria and mosquitoes. State health officials have confirmed at least three cases of humans testing positive for mosquito-borne West Nile virus this summer, but you still should not call ODEQ’s hotline (800-522-0206) to tell them you “just got a big ol’ whiff of ’skeeter sex wafting up off the crick.” And you should most definitely not tell them your name is “oil billionaire Harold Hamm.”

Even before the flooding, U.S. News & World Report ranked Oklahoma as the second worst (or, more optimistically, 49th best) state for air and water quality, but Gina Gould Peek, housing and consumer specialist with Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension, offered some words of encouragement for anyone whose olfactory organs are overpowered by floodwater funk.

“Eventually things will balance out,” Peek told Tulsa World, “and lo and behold, we will be in a drought again before we know it."

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