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‘Betrayed, kept in the dark:’ Neighbors complain about unwanted disposal well

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BLANCHARD, Okla. -- People in a Grady County neighborhood are voicing their concern over plans for a saltwater disposal well to be drilled nearby.

YDF Inc. first applied for a permit in February, but many of the neighbors are just learning about the project for the first time, after the plans had already been approved.

"My concern is all the houses around here, all the water wells," said Bobby Maston, who has lived in the area for 40 years. "They could be polluted if an accident happens."

Perhaps more concerning than the well is the process, Maston said, feeling the whole thing had been implemented furtively behind the neighborhood's back.

Reached by phone Friday, a manager at Tres Management -- which is working with YDF -- told NewsChannel 4 he had not heard any opposition.

"I've had no responses from any of the mailouts," said Wayne Smith. "So if someone's complaining, that's news to me."

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission says YDF followed all the necessary rules and procedures.

Records show all people with property adjacent or adjoining the proposed well site were notified by mail. Per state law, the company also published notice in two newspapers.

"I don’t think the rule is fair because it should encompass at least three-quarters of a mile around that area," Maston said. "I think there should be mailers sent out, knocking on the doors and letting everyone know instead of just publishing it in the papers because not everyone takes the paper."

OCC Spokesman Matt Skinner said any concerns can be taken up with his office but many rules are created to uphold state laws.

The OCC holds forums annually to suggest policy changes, he said, which must be approved by the legislature and the governor.

Skinner stressed that water quality is his department's top concern.

"Water protection is our absolute top priority when it comes to oil and gas operations," he said. "There’s a lot of work that goes into checking to be sure that there will not be impact on the water that we want to protect.

"What we are saying is all the rules have been met and all the precautions that could be taken, which the rules call for, have been met," he said.

People living in the neighborhood are more skeptical, saying they don't want to be the first victims of a mistake or leak, especially with wells, creeks and reservoirs nearby.

"There’s too many ifs that can happen," said Maston. "And who’s going to fix the ifs?"