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OKC City Council denies that a medical waste transfer station is safe near Diggs Park

Diggs Park off of North Coltrane Rd and Northeast 23rd Street.
Britny Cordera
Diggs Park off of North Coltrane Rd and Northeast 23rd Street.

The City Council in Oklahoma City denies a request for a statement that a medical waste transfer station would be safe for the residents near Diggs Park. The request comes from a consulting firm that’s facilitating the permitting process to develop the facility in northeast Oklahoma City.

Community members in the Forest Park neighborhood called for the council to deny a permitting statement form the engineering consultant company Terracon that a medical waste transfer facility would be safe to operate in the area.

Terracon represents the Arkansas-based Medical Waste Services LLC that wants to develop a facility that would hold biomedical waste before it is transported for processing.

According to Lily Ponitz, an environmental engineer based in Atlanta, Georgia, Terracon also has a history of avoiding due diligence in environmental site assessments.

Recently, the company provided the Atlanta Police Foundation with misleading assessments for the police training facility called Cop City that lacked investigation of soil and water pollution for fuel oil stored above ground in the South River Forest area of Dekalb county.

Councilwoman Nikki Nice of Ward 7 made the motion for the council to deny the statement provided by Terracon, saying the residents of Forest Park have shown up several times to public hearings regarding the facility including one last year organized by the City Parks Commission.

Residents of the neighborhood cited concerns about the proximity of the facility to Diggs Park off of North Coltrane Road, historical environmental injustices, and the impacts it could have on property values.  

Even the city Parks Commission last year recommended that the City Council does not endorse the medical waste transfer station, Nice said.

George Smith, the mayor of the town of Forest Park, said the neighborhood has businesses near the facility and that the community would rather have more homes and businesses.

Right now we have growth in Forest Park. On the south side of Forest Park is where the Terracon, these consultants, want to establish the business,” Smith said. “The south side of Forest Park is undeveloped land, and we're hoping to develop that into some more luxury homes.”

According to the EPA the eastside of Oklahoma City is home to five superfund sites. Community members said the city council’s denial for a statement saying that this facility would be safe is a big win, as it gives the city more time to question if a medical waste transfer station is environmentally safe.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Britny (they/them) reports for StateImpact Oklahoma with an emphasis on science and environment.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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