Neighbors fear health, safety as company mines soil

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The construction trucks have been a constant outside what Jim Gill says used to be a more peaceful area on the outskirts of town.

"The amount of trucks is just horrendous," he said, looking out at a 120 acre plot of land across the street. "It just seems like such a terrible way to destroy the land."

Poage Investments LLC is the newest neighbor near NW 10th and Cimarron. According to Oklahoma City documents, Harold Poage's plan is to mine dirt and soil from the property and sell it, lowering a ridge by surface grading.

But the Oklahoma City Planning Commission never approved the plan, instead voting down an application for a special use permit after months of deferrals and deliberations, amid protests from people like Jim Brown living nearby.

"The reality is there's nothing good about this for the environment, there's nothing good about this for the community, there's nothing good about this for the state," he said. "The activity was tons of heavy equipment running all hours of the day, lots of dust making it difficult to see, noise."

Instead, the Oklahoma Department of Mines granted the permit, Minerals Administrator Richard Shore confirmed to NewsChannel 4, after making sure Poage's plan satisfied state and local requirements.

Oklahoma City's attorneys apparently don't see it that way. Spokeswoman Kristy Yager said "it's a potential lawsuit."

Court paperwork shows the City accusing Poage of "conducting mining operations on property located in an agricultural zone without a special permit" and ready to go before a judge.

More concerning to the people living across the street from the construction work, is the applications filed with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, asking to turn two shallow, old wells into disposal wells.

"I have a freshwater well in my back yard and this guy is going to be infusing dirty oil waste field products in the ground close to my resource," said Brown. "So my quality of life, my property value, the safety of my children all become a concern of mine individually."

Other concerns include seismic activity and dust that some neighbors call the "worst since the dust bowl."

"We just hope in the end that what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong," said Brown. "That if this type of activity has been deemed appropriate, maybe there are better places to do this. Maybe places that it isn't going to contaminate water sources or be in the midst of essentially neighborhoods."

NewsChannel 4 could not reach Harold Poage for comment. After no one answered the door, a man in a pickup truck pulled up and told a reporter: "We're not playing your game. Go away."

The man then drove off.

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