Tests reveal contamination beneath the surface of Salt Fork flood plain

The OCC says tests on soil beneath this repaired leak in Kay County show high levels of contamination (Phil Cross/KOKH)

Fresh dirt placed on top of contaminated soil could land an energy company in court following a FOX 25 Investigation. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has found contamination on an area that was supposed to be cleaned up weeks ago.

The issue started on a farm just outside of Tonkawa in Kay County. It began as a leak in a pipeline that carried salty wastewater beneath the flood plain of the Salt Fork River. The owner of the well site was supposed to repair the leak and haul off any contaminated soil.

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The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, OCC, says it prefers field inspectors witness these “dig and haul” operations, but in this case that did not happen. After FOX 25 visited several locations in Kay County, the commission sent inspectors out to take soil samples.

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The samples revealed that contamination still existed below the fresh dirt. Scientists reported one of the samples came back with salt levels greater than 61,000 parts per million and another sample had more than 88,000 parts per million of salt, which is nearly 30 times greater than what the salt content should be fore soil in the area.

The OCC said the “hot” samples show contaminated wastewater remained in the soil after the initial remediation work was completed. However, the OCC said it had not closed the complaint because it requires vegetation to regrow before giving a sight the all clear.

In this case, the OCC said the operator will have to go back to the area and dig out the soil until they reach uncontaminated dirt. Then the operator will have to haul in uncontaminated soil to fill in the hole.

The OCC said it will pursue contempt charges on the operator who is responsible for the contamination remaining below the surface.

According to records from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, ground water for people living here sits anywhere between five to ten feet deep on average. The OCC told FOX 25 it is possible that contamination from improperly cleaned up contamination could be reaching that ground water.

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