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‘The smell will be atrocious,’ Family ponders moving out as wastewater spray field moves in

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BLANCHARD, Okla. - There is no place like the house Rusty Miller calls home.

It's the house he grew up in. It's the house he moved into with his high school sweetheart. It's the house in which he raised his daughters and granddaughters.

And, it's the house he's now considering leaving.

"We’re lost. We don’t know what to do," said Vicky Miller, Rusty's wife. "We’re saddened, very saddened by it. We know we’ll get through with God’s help."

Two weeks ago, the Millers awoke to the sound of an excavator on the hill next to their house.

They've watched as it digs the groundwork for a spray field, which will shoot treated wastewater from a nearby lagoon into the air.

It will all take place 100 feet from the Millers' fence.

"That will push it right on top of us," Rusty said. "Unfortunately, if they’re running it in a north breeze, you won’t be able to be anywhere on the property without getting wet."

And, as meaningful as the house has been to the family's past, Vicky said, the biggest concern is for the future.

"Our children are concerned about their grandchildren coming to our house now because of all this," she said. "Well, that definitely can’t happen. You can’t live without your grandchildren. That is breaking my heart."

"To look at all this doesn’t bother me," she said, pointing to the mounds of dirt next door. "But, what it’s going to do, that is what’s bothering me the most."

The Millers fear the effects the spray field will also cause problems for their garden, property value and their private well, which the family has used for decades.

Often, the family draws thousands of gallons a week to do gardening and other ventures.

"It will contaminate our well, seeing as old as it is and as high as the water table is here," said Rusty, who claims he brought his complaints to the city manager. "I said 'You know that’s on top of the hill, and that will be all over us and you’re going to ruin our well?' And, basically, he said 'So? You’ll be buying water from the city.'"

City Manager Robert Floyd denies ever having a conversation with the Millers.

He told NewsChannel 4 the spray field will be built on 49 acres of property the city owns.

Blanchard already received approval from the Department of Environmental Quality and put the spray farm through the mandated public hearings.

"To my knowledge, there were no protests," Floyd said. "As long as the city operates it properly, the homeowners should not have any problems."

A spokesperson for the DEQ told NewsChannel 4 the spray field is 100 feet away from the property specifically to prevent contamination.

The water will not seep into the ground and contaminate the well, he said.

The DEQ is encouraging the Millers to do periodic testing of their well water and ensure they are performing proper maintenance.

Floyd, for his part, is confident the city of Blanchard will operate things properly.

The location is the most cost-efficient for taxpayers, he said, because it is as close as possible to the wastewater lagoon, minimizing the need for pumps.

The spray field will likely be completed within three months, leaving the Millers limited time to fight back.

"It’s inevitable, and we’re just trying to protect us the best we can," said Rusty, pointing to soil and water samples he plans to send to labs as evidence of pre-spray field purity. "It’s just a great place to live. It still is great except what’s fixing to be on top of us."