Rose Eitemiller

Circa 1900 – 2018

Collection Information

Size: Video recording: 1 MP4 file (49 min., 58 sec.); digital

Transcript: 19 pages

Photographs: 2 interview digital photographs and 1 personal photograph converted to digital format. 

Format: Originally recorded on a DSLR camera as an MOV file and a portable audio digital recorder as an MP3 file.

Summary: Interview materials of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona community member and former CEO of the Dewey-Humboldt Community Coalition Rose Eitemiller. The collection consists of biographical materials, including an interview transcript, interview photographs, personal photographs, and interview video. The personal photograph focuses on the former railroad yard in Dewey-Humboldt that was located in what is now a residential area on Sweet Pea Lane.

Historical Note

Rose Eitemiller (1967- ) was involved in community advocacy work focused on the environmental health impacts associated with the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund site. Currently, she is working towards addressing clean residential water that serves several homes through the old Smelter pipes. She obtained the first U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) Technical Assistance Grant. Rose held the title of CEO for the Dewey-Humboldt Community Coalition and led it for seven years until she relinquished the grant back to the US EPA in January 2018. She was also involved with the University of Arizona (UA) Gardenroots Program and worked with the UA Metals Exposure Study in Homes. Currently, she is attending Northern Arizona University and is enrolled in the Master of Social Work Program. Rose was born in Long Beach, California to Harlyn Everett Codd and Lydia Faye Kennedy. She has three brothers and one sister.  In 2000, she moved to Arizona with her three eldest sons.  In 2004, she purchased a home in Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona where she currently resides with her husband Brian Eitemiller and her youngest son Landon Eitemiller.  

Provenance

The personal photograph was donated to the Voices Unheard: Arizona’s Environmental History archives in 2018 by Rose Eitemiller. In this same year, the oral history and photovoice interviews were conducted and recorded by Denise Moreno Ramírez. The audio recording of these interviews was later mixed by Robert Campbell and the video recording was edited by Ramani Menjugas. 

Citation

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Rose Eitemiller, 2018 August 8. Archives of Voice Unheard: Arizona’s Environmental History, The University of Arizona.

Download Oral History Transcript

Transcript

Preface

The following oral history is the result of a recorded interview with Rose Eitemiller conducted by Denise Moreno Ramírez on August 8, 2018. This interview is part of Moreno Ramírez’s dissertation research at the University of Arizona.

Readers are asked to bear in mind that they are reading a transcript of the spoken word, rather than written prose. The interview focuses on Eitemiller’s recollections about her life in Arizona and her experience as a community advocate focused on the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund site located in Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona. 

Oral History Interview

Q:    Hi Rose how are you doing?

Eitemiller:    I'm well, how are you? 

Q:    I'm doing good. So, the first question I have for you is where were you born? 

Eitemiller:    Where was I born? 

Q:    Yeah. 

Eitemiller:    Long Beach, California. 

Q:    And how did you get to Arizona to Dewey-Humboldt? 

Eitemiller:    It's a long story. I'll try and make it short. Um, I left California when I was 23. We – my husband, and I, and the kids moved to South Dakota, in the middle of South Dakota. Um, there was a business that we had there, it, um, his father and, and he owned, and his father passed away, and um, since there was no family there, really, for us, other than, um, the father-in-law and his siblings, we left and moved to Durango, Colorado, and, uh, there, I had another child, and she passed away. 

And um, it kind of broke apart the marriage, and we ended up splitting, and life got really hard, and I tucked my tail, and I thought, "Well, okay, I think I'm gonna head back home to California." Uh for some reason, I couldn't do it, and I stopped here in Arizona, just to see what Prescott was like, and every road has a dif – it's the same road, but it's a different name, and I got lost. 

Um, ended up staying here, and within two weeks, I got a job, and uh, the rest is history. I'm here, been here for 18 years. 

Q:    And so, did you move to your current residence, or where did you live?

Eitemiller:    I lived in Prescott briefly with a roommate, um, over the summer while my kids visited my mom, and then, I moved to Prescott Valley, and I wanted to buy my own home, so I was looking in the paper and I saw that, um, there was homes being built in Humboldt. I had no idea where Humboldt was, but um, that it was on a road called Sweet Pea, and that's the name that I gave my daughter when she was little. 

And uh, so I thought, "I, I need to go check these out, I need to see what's, what's there." And uh, I moved here, and these were just being built. There was no walls on it yet, it was still in the sticks, you know? So, um, I chose this one, because it had a, a tree on it at one point, um, and uh, nothing else, just a tree, no landscape or nothing. 

And I fell in love with the house, and I got to choose my colors, and so, I, I've been here for, uh, 14 years. 

Q:    Wow, and then, du – is your residence here where you live in the area that's impacted by the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter?

Eitemiller:    Very much so. As a matter of fact, when, um, my realtor and I walked the property, I had noticed the smelter, and I asked for a disclosure, um, and she said, "What do you mean? It's a brand-new house." And I said, "Yes, but I know" – being from Durango, there was an impact there, an EPA impact when I lived there, as well, um, off of the Animas River, and so I knew what mining does.

And so, I said, "I need to – " I said, "I need to, um, or because I know what's going on, I need a disclosure for the land or anything like that, just in case there's some contamination." And she said, "Oh Rose, no, no, no. They couldn't build on contaminated land." And I said, "Oh, okay. Alright." Well, sure enough, they did. 

Um, and so, when I heard about the EPA coming over, um, they weren't gonna check this area, and I had called, um, Leah, she was with the EPA, and they were working on the Iron King, uh, Mine side, and I asked her if she would be interested in coming over and looking, because there was all kinds of stuff coming up in my soil that was railroad parts and, and wheels, and hammers, and nails from back in the '40s. 

And um, she said, "Well, we had not, no plan on it." And I said, "Well, we're right off of the smelter property," and she thought that was interesting. Well, come to find out, that um, it was the old railroad. I didn't know that. I had no idea, so I did more research, and then found out that, uh, the owner of the lands bought it from BNSF Railroad, and then sold it to H&R Quality Homes, which built the property, but didn't disclose to them that the land was contaminated. 

So, from there, is when I began my fight.

Q:    So, is this when you first learned about the contamination associated – 

Eitemiller:    Yep.

Q:    And how did you learn about it again? It was just like you seeing that there was railroad parts, and – 

Eitemiller:    Yeah, so we had a huge monsoon, and it started washing away some of the property down below, and we had, um, there was an I beam about four feet below that was actually, um, exposed, because of the rain. And so, that was one, that was one of our biggest finds. 

But we were finding, like, little – um, the old-fashioned nails from the '20s and, and '30s, they look like little spikes. We were finding those, and we found, um, little old wheels from, like, um, cable cars, or, or door cars from the train, and stuff like that, and it didn't make sense to me. Where's all this coming from? You know?

And um, but that's, that's what got me going, and calling the, the town, calling the county, seeing what was here before, and then that's when they, um, they told me about Leah Butler and the EPA. 

Q:    And what are your – some of the memories that you have from the time when the community was most active at the Superfund site?

Eitemiller:    [Sighs] In the beginning, there was a lot of people that was really interested in what was going on. Um, some were more out - the naysayers, you know? They were – a lot of them were there at the meetings, um, when Leah Butler was heading 'em up, and, and Monica, um, Ramirez was, um, coming out as well. 

Um, but then there were some – Ashley Preston is one of them. She, uh, was very much interested, because she lives below the, the um, the smelter. And um, I was surprised to see as many people, and this was 2010, and I had started this back in 2007, 2008-ish. Um, and so, I was quite impressed that there was people interested at that time. 

Um, but, um, as the years have gone by, everybody kinda fell away from it, and um, when I went to the, the CAG meeting recently, I was surprised that more people are starting to get involved again. You know? Now that the remediation part is done, you know, I think they're looking more for the feasibility and what the purpose of this land's gonna be. So – 

Q:    And how did the Superfund site or the contamination that's associated with it impact your family or your neighbors?

Eitemiller:    Well, we were, um, because this whole area was, was railroad, um, and where my house sits right now, it was the dumping station between the trucks and the, and the, um, and the trains. And so, there was a lot of spillage here, so it was highly contaminated with arsenic and lead and beryllium, and, and other, uh, cadmium and things like that. 

Um, if memory serves me. But some people didn't want to jump on board with the cleanup, and, and others were like, right on it. Um, but they went down about two feet and brought us clean soil, and in that time frame, we couldn't go outside and enjoy, you know, our, our property. We couldn't, and, and Landon, my son at the time, was um I believe he was four, and of course, when you see all these big trucks, and, and backhoes, and stuff, as a little boy, you're, you're excited, and you wanna see it. 

And, and they wouldn't let him outside, you know, um, and uh, it was, it was, um, it was disheartening knowing that I had asked in the beginning if this was contaminated, and it wasn't told to me that it was. And to the fear before he got, before Landon even got tested, that he might be, you know, contaminated with arsenic and, and lead, thank god he wasn't. Um, but it just, it impacted my family. 

I have not talked to others, because at the time, there was most of these homes were foreclosed upon, so they were empty. 

Q:    And then, um, when you drove in, uh, did you notice the tailings or anything of that sort, or what other signs did you see of contamination?

Eitemiller:    Well, so, coming into Humboldt, when I first moved here, I didn't know what that was. I didn't think that the tailings would be that prevalent, and that visible in 2004. You know, it made no sense to me that it wouldn't have been taken care of before then, because there were people moving in here, there were homes being built. 

It made no sense to have an active mine or even – because I believe Iron, Ironite was out there at, at the time, to have the contamination right there on the side of the road, you know, where everybody can see it, where, where people might even be impacted by it, and nothing being done. 

Um, you know, like I said, I didn't find out until about 2007, 2008, that the whole area was contaminated, that whole area, and I didn't, I didn't know what tailings were. Um, I had to educate myself on that. And I know that walking down Third Street, there's tailings on the side of the road there. 

Um, there's just a, you know, I'm shocked that it wasn't taken care of, and that people were allowed to move in, and nothing was, nothing was done, nothing was said, you know, and so, you know, who knows the exposure that we've had?

Q:    And why did you decide to become an active member of your community when it came to environmental issues?

Eitemiller:    Well, I was always an environmentalist, back when I was a kid. There was a 1970, uh, commercial with Iron Eyes Cody, and um, he was on the side of the freeway, and he saw people throwing litter out of their cars, and stuff, and so, even as a little kid, I'd go around, and pick up trash, and try to put it in, you know, a receptacle. 

And um, I've always been concerned, and I've always tried to, to do my best to leave a small imprint. I've always been one for justice, and so, when I moved here, it was just me, and like I said, I had no idea it was 2004, I had no idea this was contaminated. I was told it wasn't. 

And then, when I met and married, um, Brian, and had Landon, and then found out that the, um, land was contaminated, he was my motivation. He was truly my motivation, so – 

Q:    Tell me how you became active with the investigations being conducted by the University of Arizona. 

Eitemiller:    Well, I was – I had met Monica at one of the, um, town meetings, and um, for – that was when I, um, EP – uh, the EPA, Leah Butler was there, and um, a few of the, uh, town council was there. And I had heard about the Gardenroots program, and so, I really wanted to be a part of that. I really wanted to know if my, my soil was contaminated, and how contaminated it was. 

Um, and then, I wanted to make sure that the garden that I had wasn't pulling up any, you know, any arsenic, any lead, or anything like that. Um, and so, I participated, and um, she took one of my onions, um, and a couple of other things, and thank god it wasn't the type of, of vegetable that pulls up the, the poisons in the, in the soil. 

Um, but uh, the water, the water was contaminated. It had a high arsenic content. And we had been drinking that this whole time. I mean, I'd been drinking it since 2004, I drank it while I was pregnant with Landon, he was drinking it with his bottles. You know, so that was another big scare. 

And I, I came unglued. I, I swear I thought if something happens to my child, I don't know what I'm gonna do. But I'll do something. And so, I kept calling lawyers on top of lawyers to try and get involved, and nobody wanted to get involved, no one. And so, um, they said that, um, that they're, they needed to know when I found out – I guess there's a time limitation. I said, “There shouldn't be a limitation on this stuff, you know?” 

Um but I was very angry, very angry, and you know, that momma bear comes out when you find out that your child is being contaminated, and it could have been prevented, um, so I just, um, you know, being a mom, knowing that there's other children out there, knowing that there's, there's frail, older people out there, that's what got me motivated, that's why I wanted to become a part, and so, um, the more I'm worked with Monica, the, the more I wanted to work with her, the more I wanted to do, um, do things to educate myself, and be a part of this community.

Q:    And then, I found out that you were involved also as a MESH technician, and a garden, in addition to your Gardenroots involvement. 

Eitemiller:    Yes. 

Q:    Can you tell me a little bit about how that happened? So, first you started with Gardenroots and then you were part of MESH?

Eitemiller:    Yes. So, through Monica, I found out, um, the – about the MESH program, and met with Nate, and um, he had hired – he had put out, um, a job, like a, a job title or what have – whatever, to the community, and hired myself and a couple of others. Um, and we went door to door, and put fliers on doors for anybody who wanted to participate in the water, and the soil, and stuff, um, for the U of A, um, SRP project. So. 

Q:    And can you tell me, or share a memorable story from your fieldwork as a technician, or as a Gardenroots participant?

Eitemiller:    Um, well I, I liked the fact that um, I don't really have, I mean, I have memories, but nothing really memorable. I liked the fact that the, there was community involvement with the MESH program. They pulled people from the community itself. Um, I liked the fact that the people that I knocked on the door that were home, or the ones that did come in contact with me, um, that they were interested in the program, as well, and that they wanted to know more, they wanted to educate themselves. 

Because a lot of times, people don't want to know. You know? They, they think that if they don't know, it's not gonna hurt them, you know, and maybe that's the wrong way of putting it. But sometimes, ignorance is bliss. And I don't feel that way. I feel the more you're educated, the more you know, the better off you're going to be, because you can prevent things, and you can work with, with people to help you prevent these things, whether it be the contamination or, or whether it be, you know, whatever it is that you're looking at. 

Um, and with the water, finding out that this whole area, and I'm, and I'm glad in one sense that most of this area is not contaminated by the Superfund, um, the water, at least. Most of the water is contaminated, because it's a naturally occurring thing, and so, that was nice to know, that put me at rest, and it wasn't just that the, you know, our water is just not good to drink. 

So, but that would be probably my best memory. 

Q:    And then, I also read, uh, that, at the Gardenroots at the work, uh, that you participated in with your water, that there were some changes done to the local water company. 

Eitemiller:    Yes. 

Q:    Can you talk about that a little bit?

Eitemiller:    So, it took them awhile. Um, they put in new filtration systems, um, and then I found out once they did that, and it was complete, that they were going to charge the customers that they had been contaminating for god knows how many years, that they were gonna charge them for the filtration system. I fought that. I actually wrote a complaint to the Arizona Corporation Commission. Um, I tried to get, uh, getting others involved. 

I didn't, there was no follow-through from anybody else. Um, if you look on Arizona Corporation Commission website, you'll see my complaint. Um, I don't, I don't understand how anyone, a government entity, or state entity of any sort, can really allow anybody to charge somebody for safe water, you know? 

And Humboldt Water Systems is charging their customers that they've been allowed to, um, contaminate with nitrates, with arsenic, for years. I mean, I've been here for two, since 2004, and that's 14 years of contamination, or at least 12 years of contamination, of drinking their water, before they actually put in the filtration system. I don't think I should be responsible for paying that off for them, especially when there's grants to be had. You know? 

Um, so that angers me, but I did fight. I lost. [Laughs] But I fought. 

Q:    And I don't think you're alone, there's, uh, I've seen, oh, other companies do the same thing. So, yeah. And then, how did you decide to establish the Community Coalition of Dewey-Humboldt?

Eitemiller:    So, I was approached, um, that very first meeting that I went to, I was approached by, um, Leah Butler, starting either a CAG, or, um, a TAG group. Um, Ashley Preston said, "Well, I'm gonna do the TAG," which is a Technical Assistant Grant. And um, I said, "Okay," I said, "I, I would like to do that, as well with you." So, we partnered up. 

Um, unfortunately, um, we had to part ways. That's a, a different story that doesn't need to be said here, but uh, we just disagreed on certain things, and um, so, because she was the president at, you know, we, we gave each other a title. She was president, I was vice president, um, they were gonna choose her. And when they asked for all the paperwork, they – she said, "Well, it's all at Rose's house, because Rose filed everything." 

Was Rose's money, it was Rose's – and they said, "Well, then, we can't rightfully choose you." So, I kinda got it by default, but um, I'm glad I did. I, um, it's hard work, and it requires a lot of dedication and time, um, but so, what, once I established it, instead of the name that we had chosen, I decided to choose a different name that reflects the, the community itself, which was the Coalition – um, Community Coalition of Dewey-Humboldt, and then, um, of course, you have to get a tax ID, and all these other things. 

Um, and then once I did all that, I had to look for people that would be interested in being part of the, um, part of the corporation. You have to have a, uh, secretary, you have to have maybe even a treasurer, you know, just people that on, on the board, um, and I had that, probably for the first three months. 

And then, um, slowly but surely, people were like. Because the wheels of justice move slow, the, the wheels of the government move slower, and so, people wanted results, and unfortunately, I couldn't give them results, and neither could the EPA at the time. So, then the people that I had um in the, um, in the TAG with me, they decided that they didn't want to be a part. 

And I said, "Well, I need, I need at least a resignation from you so I can show, you know, the EPA that this is, this is why you don't want to be here," and blah, blah, blah. Anyway, so it ended up one left, then the other left, and then it was just me. And so, um, I, I, I got a lot of flack. People wanted to know my financials, people wanted somebody to run it with me, because I wasn't trusted. 

Um, I thought, "Really? Okay. Well, you come in," I offered. "Come in, you work, you work it, you do it, you do all the paperwork, you do the quarterlies, you do the yearly financials, and tell me, you know, I have to be down to every penny with the EPA." 

And so, um, I almost didn't want to complete it. I almost didn't want to go, because of the, because of the bad blood between someone else and I, and the rumors that were being spread. I wanted to just say, "I'm done. I don't need this. I did this for my heart, and for my child, and for everybody else's child." 

Um, but I stuck with it for, uh, seven years. Seven years. So, I just liquidated, uh, the Community Coalition of Dewey-Humboldt back in December, or no, I'm sorry, January. So. 

Q:    And then, so when Leah Butler asked you about it when you were – everybody was talking about this idea of the TAG vs. CAG, um, what was going on in the community during that time? Was it when they were trying to figure out if they should establish the Superfund site or was it already established?

Eitemiller:    Um, they were working on putting it on the, uh, national, um, the NPL, um, and at, at the moment, the acronym kinda, National Priority List, that's what it is. Um, that was – I think they started doing that back in 2009. Um, but they were still in the works, getting everything, getting all the things rolling in, and, and um, they needed a TAG group, and what have you. So. 

Q:    And so, when was the year or the, the Community Coalition was established?

Eitemiller:    August of 2010. 

Q:    And what was the goal of the organization?

Eitemiller:    The goal was to, um, educate, and um, to be the liaison between the community and the EPA, but I wanted people to know that somebody was here, listening, you know, somebody was here advocating for them. If they, if they needed somebody to talk to, if they had questions or anything. 

Q:    Okay, Rose, so let's go back, and can you talk about what you did for the MESH program?

Eitemiller:    So, what we did for the MESH program was, um, we've tested water, um, we wanted, uh, to go into the homes, test the dust particles of the homes, as well as the soil, to see if perhaps the, um, the contaminations were coming into the home, um, and if so, how much. 

So, they would take, uh, vacuum, uh, dust, they would take, they had these, uh, opened air, uh, paint cans, with a petri dish underneath, and so, the dust fall would fall into there, and they could see how much arsenic was in the air in the home. Um, mine came out pretty high, um, we did toenails on the children, toenails and fingernails. 

We did, um, urine, things like that, so there were some biologicals, and there was some, some home, um, dust particles, and water, and things like that that we did. So. 

Q:    And then, can you talk a little bit about the MESH CAG and then the difference between, uh, the Community Coalition of Dewey-Humboldt. 

Eitemiller:    So, the Community Coalition of Dewey-Humboldt is an entity from the EPA. Um, the EPA needed a, a community, um, liaison so to speak, uh, it's somewhere in their verbiage when there's a Superfund site that they need a TAG group in order to, uh, have a technical assistant read the information given off of the remedial investigation, and the feasibility study, and what have you. 

Um, and then relay this in layman's terms to the community, because sometimes, you know, if you've ever been to an EPA meeting, it's technical, very technical. Jeff Dhont does a very good job at explaining. He's very personable, um, and um, people will come up to him and ask all kinds of questions. 

But I think that the, the CAG was to introduce the community more so, you know, have, have somebody in the community that could relay this, this information between the EPA, the government, and the community. Um, when MESH started their CAG, um, we, they actually asked me, not as an employee, but as the Community Coalition um CEO, to participate. 

And what it was for, it was to bring community members in that had had been tested, that had their water tested, their soil, and their, and their dust particles, and go over it, so if they had any questions, and concerns, they can discuss. Uh it began that way so people could come to the, you know, to the library or wherever the meeting was gonna be, and um, discuss things. What's bothering them, what would they like to see? Uh, what more, you know, could be done, any kind of idea and stuff. 

Um, and that was through the U of A, so the difference between the TAG is EPA, and the CAG for the MESH was U of A. Two different entities, one private, one, one government, so.

Q:    And can you talk a little bit about that memory that you have of when you went to Atlanta, and how that started?

Eitemiller:    Uh, yeah. So, I've been to two different forums where I, I talked. Uh, one Monica, um, Ramirez, she invited me out to San Jose, and then they – about a year later, they asked me to be a part of a training for the EPA, and what took part was we had been, myself, Sarah, and a few others, and Monica was there, um, we went to the EPA, uh, training facility in, um, or not facility, but uh, big hotel, the Sheraton, um. 

It was, uh, it was, it was to show how entities can collaborate, that was what our part was. And I was the face of the community, I was to talk about, um, my impact, how it impacted me if I had interviewed other people in the community, what they were saying, uh, how they felt about living in, um, in an area that is, uh, Superfund, you know, or contaminated. 

Um, and so, I shared my story about Landon, and about the water, um, and of course, the, uh, ATSDR spoke, the U of A spoke, and then the EPA had their turn to speak about how to come, you know, into a community, and not just be that, you know, overseer and this is how we're gonna do it, and this is what we wanna do. 

Actually, take the community and be a part of them, you know, listen to them, and to have the EPA listen to the U of A, and collaborate, you know, because it's not, it's not this person does a, a better job than this person. It's not this person has the right things that this person doesn't have. 

What it is, it's about the community, it's about getting the community to understand what's going on and involving them. There's feelings there, there's history here, there's families here. And so, one of the things that I did, um, run into was that people didn't wanna deal with, you know, state. People didn't wanna deal with federal. 

And, and it's, and you know, I don't understand, but I get it. I do get it. And so, that was, um, I loved being a part of that. That shows to me that even though we're all from, from – we come from different directions, and we all have something in mind that we want, we can put it together, you know, and, and do it for all the right reasons. 

So, that's, you know, that's a good memory, I like that one. 

Q:    And did you have a publication that came out from that collaboration?

Eitemiller:    I actually – the, the publication was for the San Jose one, that was the, um, the CitSci, um Citizen Science program, that was out of, uh, San Jose, and I was with Monica to speak to her about the Gardenroots, and how, um, how the Superfund had impacted my home, and my family, and what have you. 

Q:    And so, we're gonna go back now, the – to the Community Coalition, and then what were some of the impacts of the Community Coalition of Dewey-Humboldt?

Eitemiller:    The impacts?

Q:    Uh-huh, or what were some of the activities that you fulfilled or that you did?

Eitemiller:    [Sigh] Well, I would, um, so I hired a technical assistant grant, his name was Brian, – or a technical assistant, I should say, his name is Brian. And um, I went through a couple of them, actually. Um, you find that, you know, people have really good intentions, but they don't always, they're not always on your same page. 

Um, I tried working with a few of them, I ended up going through some more of my resumes to find another one. I happened to come across Brian, um, and uh, he's lived here. He knows the area very well, and I thought he was the best man for the job, after everything was said and done, and going through a couple of the, the um, uh, technical assistants that I had gone through. 

Um, after that, we would put our heads together, him and I, and we talked. I'd tell him about my concerns, and this is what I want, you know, this is what I want him to, to do with the EPA, this is what I want him to do for the community. Um, you know, uh, we waited for so long for the remediation to be done, and the, the very first one, and unfortunately, it wasn't done properly, so it had to all be redone, the whole, uh, verbiage. 

And so, it was interesting to finally get the two big files that I got, and um, have Brian read it to, to, and his knowledge, you know, from being here, and knowing the background, and then, what the EPA had to say, I, I quite enjoyed talking to him about that. Um, basically, my role in the beginning, gung-ho, I had all the prints out, printouts and stuff, and you know, my own table, and, and come talk to us, and um, but um. 

I believe it was in 2012-ish, when Obama said, "Transparency is the best," and so on and so forth, which I agree. Um, the EPA opened up more of their doors, and would answer questions, um, and which kinda put me in the back. I didn't have to do so much. I didn't have to be out there in the community as much, because people were able to go straight to the EPA and talk to Jeff, or, or talk to, um, I'm missing names here, but anyway – you know, and, and talk to them about their, their fears, or questions about the contamination and what have you. 

So, I didn't have to research anymore. That was part of the, the thing was researching, and, and looking up old, um, EPA fliers on the Iron King Mine, and trying to figure out what I, you know, what I needed to do, where I needed to put this, and, and then, um, somehow, talk to the, the community. 

I had a lot of phone calls that I fielded in the beginning, but again, once everything became transparent with the EPA, those stop, too. So. 

Q:    And so, overall, what was your experience with the grant like? Would you ever do that again? [Laugh] It sounds like a lot of work. 

Eitemiller:    You know, um, I would. But um, I wouldn't do it alone. If I had to do it again, uh, now I know the process, um, I would, I would be, I would choose the right people to be in the, um, to be in the TAG with me. Brian, that was a good choice. He was a good choice, um, and um, I missed not being in the know, but I'm good being who I am and relaxed at home knowing that somebody's out there taking care of it. 

But um, I would, I, I guess the answer is I would do it again. I just would not do it alone. It's a lot of work, a lot of work. 

Q:    And the, what do you want others to know about the Community Coalition? Maybe something that not, might not be well known?

Eitemiller:    That the one person who headed it up really cared, really tried to, to make way for this community, really tried to fight for clean water, really tried to fight for, for everything, you know, that's – being in the TAG allowed me to be a voice. And I'm grateful for that, um, whether I was heard or not, I don't know. But hopefully, somebody listened. And that's all I can hope for.

Q:    And then, what are you most proud of when it comes to your involvement with the Superfund site?

Eitemiller:    Um, sometimes we start something that we don't know what it's gonna end up like. We don't know what we're gonna ourself into. Um, but I started something, and um, whether it's because I'm, I'm tenacious, curious, I don't know, but I started something, and I'm proud now that I'm, I've stepped away that there's others that are willing to take the wheel, because that makes me proud that I'm, that even though I was alone in the TAG, I'm not alone in the community, so I'm very proud of that. 

Q:    And what would you recommend, or like, to see future generations learn from this experience, or your experience?

Eitemiller:    Question everything. Don't assume because it's green and lush that there's not something lurking underneath. Don't assume that because a real estate agent says it's not contaminated, it's not contaminated. Do your due diligence, wherever you live, what, whatever you do in life. Due diligence, research, all these things will come in handy, and you, you learn much about your environment. 

And just to, um, remember that everything that we do, everything that we use, impacts us all. 

Q:    And then, how would you like the memory of your experience to be remembered?

Eitemiller:    I'd say be ready to do everything by yourself, not everybody will agree with you, not everybody will like you. And so, if you can go into something knowing that in the end, you might be alone, then you'll get through it. 

Q:    And then, how do you think that the memory of the Superfund site and the contamination will be remembered?

Eitemiller:    You know, I try and think about if I was in the Pioneer Days, you know, and now, and then being in my 80s or 90s now, and looking back, and saying, "Look at all the growth," and you know, so I, I put myself at this 80 year old woman, and I often wonder myself, will anybody remember? Will anybody know what actually happened here?

We're not like – we're not like plants, thank god. We're not like those that have been truly impacted. But because they're, it is bad, all over the world, it's bad. But we're still impacted. It's, it's still here, and so, hopefully, somebody will learn from our mistakes. 

Q:    And then, how did you learn about the progress of the cleanup for the Superfund site?

Eitemiller:    Well, being in the TAG, I was, I was told everything, so I mean, I'd get a phone call or an e-mail, um, I've gone through quite a few project managers, um, you know. Well, actually, Jeff Donn's the project manager, it's the, um, the uh, I can't remember, the CIC, and uh, I've gone through, I think, five or six in the seven years that I've had the TAG. 

Each one of 'em have great passion. Each one of 'em were, were wonderful. Um, you know, and I, I'd work with them again. I'd work with them again. 

Q:    And uh, what was not useful when it came to the information, uh, that you received, and how it was reported?

Eitemiller:    [Sighs] I have a problem with the fact that this road out here was never tested. You know? Um, they – I was told that the reason why it doesn't need to be tested is because nobody's – people just drive on it, nobody's gonna be, you know, playing in it, but I'm sorry, rain – my house floods, because it's lower than – not my house, but the yard floods.

And if there's contamination, um, in the soil there, why wouldn't it come down here? Um, it just, that part kind of did not make sense to me, and um, you know, you could put all the chat on it you want, and that's fine, but underneath, it's still a contaminated soil. So, I, I think that's the part that maybe I want answers for, too.

Q:    And were you surprised by anything, like that, yea, the information the information that you received, was anything, like, "Oh my goodness," like something against what you thought, or just bigger than you thought?

Eitemiller:    You know, I was surprised that Landon wasn't affected when they first did lead, uh, testing on, on the children. And then, when we did the MESH program, and we did the urine and the, um, the nails. Here I'm thinking he's fine, and to find out that there's traces of arsenic in him. You know? So, that, I was like [Makes a Noise]– 

Uh, there's not much I can do, um, you know, even his pediatrician says that, you know, he's not, he's functioning fine, you know, but that's now. And this is one of the arguments I had with Jeff Dhont. You know, being able to do a statis – a statistic on a town that's only, you know, 3,000, as opposed to if it was Los Angeles, you could do a, you know, statistics, 10 out of how many, 100,000 are affected, can't do that here. 

Um, but you're, you don't know if what he's exposed to, or what these children, you know, are people exposed to, are gonna be exposed to later? Cancers, whatever. Um, that's, that's my thought, you know, and so, knowing now that he's been, that is in his system, or at least, was, I haven't had him tested. I'd like to see retesting of the children, you know, through a different project. 

Um, you know, five years later, ten years later, um, but uh, that was probably a shock to me, was finding out, thinking that he wasn't, and then finding out that he actually was with arsenic. Lead, no. Arsenic, yes. 

Q:    And what advice do you have for the state and federal governments that oversee the cleanup?

Eitemiller:    Just take into consideration that these are, you know, it's a job to them, but these are lives. You know, these are people's homes, they, they, you know, people work very hard to have that American dream, that home whatever, um, children, uh, and sometimes, I think that all gets convoluted when all we see is the end result is let's just clean, you know, clean it up. 

Well, yeah, clean it up, but be mindful that these are, this is someone's home. This is someone's life. You know? Um, the only advice that I could offer them is, is remember we're human. It's not a job. 

Q:    Did the Superfund site change your thinking about – or wait, I guess how – can you tell me how it changed your thinking?

Eitemiller:    How it changed my thinking? Um, like I think about everything all the time, contaminants that's in my food. I think about the contaminants that I'm actually still using, like weed killer, or bug killer. It's quicker, it really is, than the natural stuff, but um, I have researched things like salt, or cinnamon to use to keep the, the um, ants away, because there's a lot of red ants here. 

Um, vinegar to kill weeds. Um, takes a lot of vinegar, but it does, it does work. Um, there's, there's been a lot of things that I've tried to do, I've tried to, um, um, reduce the contaminants in my own home, like with cleaners and things like that. Um, I, I just can't seem to let go of the Comet. I love Comet. 

Um, but I mean, slowly but surely, I am, I am trying to convince my husband that it's better for us, better for Landon, you know, and better for the generations to come to move completely away from, from chemicals. 

Q:    Is there anything else that you would like to discuss that I might have missed, a story that you like to tell, and have people remember your involvement about the site, or something, or just in general, something that I didn't remember to ask you?

Eitemiller:    No. I, I think, I think you covered it all pretty good. Um, I, I would be interested to know what the community thinks now that we're so far into the Superfund site, you know, and we're moving into the feasibility study of it all. Um, I would like to see, you know, I'd like to sit on, on, on the panel, and just listen to the, the Arizona Corporation Commission, and what they have to say about, you know, the water. 

I mean, there's several things that I would love to do, because I fought so hard for it, um, I'd like answers. And I, and I feel like the only people that have really given me answers, and maybe not to, um, to the extreme that I would like to see them, but the EPA has been very good at, at letting me know what's going on. Um, but I still there's so much to be done, and nothing's being done about it. 


[End of Interview Session]

Photograph and Artifact Interview

Eitemiller:    So, I went looking, and, and, and tried to find the picture of Brian and, the, the I beam that we had found, but I couldn't find that, 'cause it's hilarious. I mean, he's 6'5, and this thing is just huge, about 18 feet, um, that I had spoke about earlier in the, in the interview. 

But we've had this, this here is a picture of the railroad, which Sweet Pea is, is on. This is where our house is on. Um, one of our neighbors had given it to us, because he thought it was pretty neat that the history of, of how we, you know, where we came from, how the houses were built, and so on, and so forth. 

He actually has pict – an aerial, uh, picture of the footings of the home, as well. But this here is where the house is actually sitting, and these are the railroad tracks. So, there's three railroad tracks actually on this road. 

And so, um, the reason why I chose it is because, you know, everything is a part of history. And, and we grow, and, and we move on, you know, and one of my – what I had said earlier is that to do your due diligence, to learn where you live, because this is where I live, but this was in 1940, so um, and here's the smelter in the background, and you can actually see, this is, this here is smoke from the smelter, and there's the mountains back there. 

This house is still standing below us, so it's kind of neat. It's part of history, and that's, this is where my hand, my house stands.

    
[End of Interview Session]

Finding Aid PDF

Interview Photographs

  • Image 1: Rose Eitemiller interview headshot

  • Image 2: Rose Eitemiller

Personal Photographs

  • Image 3: Old railroad yard in Dewey-Humboldt where Rose’s home is now located now