Residents of El Reno and a Texas-based wastewater disposal company have reached an agreement over the site of a disposal well.
The Journal Record reports H2OK LLC agreed to dismiss a permit request to construct a wastewater injection well located a half-mile from El Reno’s municipal drinking water well. Residents protested the protested the location. In addition to its proximity to the water supply, the injection well location would have been close to a public school.
A representative for H2OK said the company dropped the application permit because they wanted to be good neighbors and to avoid the expense of fighting the protest.
Residents helped H2OK find a more suitable location for the disposal well.
Jacob McCleland: You're listening to the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Jacob McCleland. I'm talking with Journal Record editor Russell Ray. Russell thank you for joining us.
Russell Ray: Hi Jacob it's good to be here.
McCleland: Now I want to talk about a couple of environment-related stories today. One is about an agreement between residents of El Reno and a Texas wastewater disposal company. Before we get to their agreement, what was the dispute here?
Ray: Well the dispute centered over the location of a proposed wastewater injection well. The Texas company H2OK wanted to place the well about a half mile from a municipal well used for drinking water. So there was also concern about the well's proposed site, and then it would have led to increased truck traffic around a nearby school. So both of those issues were of high concern for local residents.
McCleland: Why did H2OK drop their wastewater disposal permit application?
Ray: Well instead of spending a lot of time and money fighting about it in court and before state regulators, the two sides actually came together and found a solution. The company dismissed its application, and in exchange residents found the company a new location to drill their injection well. So this is a great example of how people can come together to find a solution agreeable to all parties.
McCleland: So these land owners challenged the permit application but they ended up helping the company in the long run by helping them find that new location. How else did they help out?
Ray: Well residents didn't have a problem with the company drilling an injection well. It was a simple issue of locating such a well above a groundwater source and near a school intersection. So landowners in the area came together and identified a location north of El Reno that met the company's needs. Thanks to those efforts the company expects to complete the well in the next couple of weeks.
McCleland: Now the Journal Record also reported recently that the last 500 truckloads of nuclear waste have been removed from the old Sequoia Fuels Corporation site near Gore in Sequoia County. That's in eastern Oklahoma. Give us a little bit of background here. How did all this uranium contaminated sludge get stuck in Oklahoma?
Ray: Yeah well there's a long history here. A uranium processing plant had been operating for years near the town of Gore in east-central Oklahoma. And after two accidents that injured dozens of workers and several environmental violations the plant closed in 1993. The problem was more than 10,000 tons of nuclear waste described as uranium-contaminated sludge was left behind in lagoons and ditches on the site. So this waste has been sitting there near the Arkansas and Illinois Rivers for 25 years.
Ray: Why did it take so long to get rid of all of this nuclear waste?
McCleland: Well it was a long legal battle between the Cherokee Nation and the state attorney general's office on one side and the plant's owner, Sequoia Fuels Corporation, on the other side. The company wanted to bury the waste on site but in the end a judge ordered the company to comply with an earlier agreement to remove the waste. And so that removal effort was finally completed last week.
McCleland: How are the Cherokee Nation and people who live near that old uranium processing plant reacting to news that all that waste is gone now?
Ray: Well they're very excited this long and difficult battle is over. As one Cherokee Nation official put it, "Our lands are safe again," he said. That seems to sum up the relief felt by the people living around this plight for so many years. And now all of that waste is now stored at a disposal site in Utah where it will be recycled and reused.
McCleland: Russell Ray is the editor of The Journal Record newspaper. Russell thank you so much for your time.
Ray: Thank you, Jacob.
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