CPASA Statement on Oklahoma Aggregates Association Outreach Meeting
Representatives from Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer (CPASA) attended a community outreach meeting hosted by the Oklahoma Aggregates Association (OKAA) on January 24, 2017. The meeting’s stated purpose was to introduce the community to the purpose, scope, and impact of aggregate mining in Johnston County. CPASA appreciates OKAA’s outreach, but was deeply concerned by many of the statements made. In short, CPASA believes many of the statements made at the meeting were misleading and inaccurate. Because of this, CPASA seeks to educate the stakeholders in the region—including yourself—on OKAA’s statements and the reasons for CPASA’s concern.
Most of the Mines are dry.
The OWRB identified 8 active mines over the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer (ASA). Reports filed by each of those 8 mines establish there is groundwater encountered in every mine. You can view these reports on CPASA’s website or on the OWRB’s website at https://www.owrb.ok.gov/util/rules/monitoringplans_pitwater.php
Water is not encountered in the pits for 100s of feet.
Objective USGS groundwater monitoring data from 2 wells in Johnston County and 1 well in Pontotoc County (closest to the Mill Creek mines) shows that since January 1, 2010, the lowest measured depth to groundwater was 125 feet. This includes the time period for the record droughts that ravaged our area in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Indeed, the 2 Johnston County wells never dropped below 75 feet to groundwater. Verified data establishes the mines in Johnston County encounter groundwater at very shallow depths. Groundwater depth data can be found at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/dv?period=&begin_date=2010-01-01&end_date=2017-01-24&referred_module=sw&cb_72019=on&site_no=342527096493301%2C342633096494401%2C343457096404501&format=gif_mult_sites
Mines account for 1.5% of the total groundwater usage in the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer
This statement is extremely misleading. OKAA developed this statistic by taking all the groundwater permits issued by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and calculating the percentage dedicated to aggregate mining. However, aggregate mining is the only use that is exempt from the normal permitting requirements. For all other groundwater users, the permittee must obtain a permit from the OWRB for a specific quantity of groundwater and can only remove up to that amount. In other words, every drop of water removed must be accounted for and be capped at the permit amount. Mines, on the other hand, withdraw 1000s of acre-feet of groundwater, but claim to “consumptively” use very little. Yet, it is the act of withdrawing groundwater that causes negative impacts to the surrounding hydrologic system. To be sure, some of the negative impacts can be offset by groundwater recharge and/or surface water augmentation. However, these mitigation actions can never completely relieve the negative impacts and, in many instances, the negative impacts are never softened.
While those in the area know that mining in Johnston County has been a part of our community for decades and does provide jobs in the area, CPASA is concerned about how these mining operations handle groundwater that enters their pits during the excavation process. CPASA has worked for years with a number of these operations and has engaged repeatedly with OKAA to express our concerns and try to work toward a resolution that allows these operations to continue mining without putting the citizens who benefit from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer at risk of losing their homes and communities.
The OKAA continually states that they want to be good neighbors but statements such as those heard in this community outreach meeting give us pause as to the sincerity of those claims. CPASA has worked with OKAA on how best to remove and manage the water so as not to harm the area, but we have a long way to go to ensure that the best interests of communities in and around Johnston County are protected.
Our region’s economic development is important, but that development cannot be at the expense of the Oklahoma citizens living, working, and recreating in the area. CPASA looks forward to a time where all mines in the area follow the lead of those who have made an effort to engage as good neighbors to reach a resolution that protects the region’s precious water resources. CPASA hopes you will arm yourself with information so as to combat the misleading rhetoric espoused by OKAA.