“How do we know you didn’t put bad stuff in there?” Company accused of illegal dumping in Norman

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NORMAN, Okla. - There are five acres on the Canadian River that Norman city officials said were used as an illegal dumping site.

While working on widening I-35, Sherwood Construction needed extra dirt.

The city approved their application in 2013 to create what’s called a borrow pit, basically taking dirt from an area and leaving behind a big hole.

“The problem is, when they got that permit and submitted all their applications, they didn't tell us they wanted to fill it back up,” said Shawn O’Leary, Public Works Director in charge of Norman's Floodplain Committee.

He said, when they found out the company was dumping chunks of old highway in the pit, they were ordered to stop immediately.

By then, the pit was 80 percent  full.

“Sherwood thought their permit allowed it, but it did not, absolutely did not. I can tell you that we read it very carefully,” he said.

Sherwood was left with two options: apply for another permit or dig out everything that was dumped.

Sherwood chose to apply again.

It’s unclear if they will get approval, especially since the city is not sure what is in the pit.

The main concern is asphalt and if it’s dangerous for the water supply.

"We are going to dig it up and find out how much asphalt is there and then determine if that is a problem in terms of quantity. Also, is it possible that it could contaminate the river?” O’Leary said.

Sherwood declined an interview but is working for the Department of Transportation on the highway construction.

ODOT said it has “been on site to monitor the contractors work on these projects and, to our knowledge, the contractor has not placed any hazardous materials in the borrow bit.”

O’Leary said they are working with environmental experts to determine if that’s the case.

“The city will pick three locations and take a backhoe and dig a hole. Someone will take out the stuff they put in and prove if it’s appropriate or not,” he said.

Once all the information is in, the city will make its next decision Nov. 7.

Sherwood issued the following statement:

"Sherwood is diligently working to resolve this misunderstanding with Norman’s Floodplain Committee. Sherwood Construction Co., Inc. owns the property in question and as responsible property owners we are doing our best to restore the property to its preconstruction state within industry standards and abide by local, state and federal laws and regulations. Through our cooperation and transparency with Norman officials, we are optimistic that this issue will be resolved and that all parties will see that we continue our company’s long history of responsible citizenship and service to the people of Oklahoma."

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