KGOU

Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality

Hugo, Okla., interim City Manager David Rawls.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s primary environmental agency made a private contractor pay just under $1 million earlier in a settlement over improperly treated water in a small city in southern Oklahoma. But the state’s budget shortfall swallowed up the money before the city of Hugo had a chance to use it.

An active aggregate mining operation near Mill Creek, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s four primary environmental agencies have lost more than $15 million in state appropriations and tens of millions of dollars in legislatively directed reductions to revolving funds, OETA reports.

Susan Holmes in the living room of her home in Bokoshe, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma
Oklahoma Water Resources Board project coordinator Jason Murphy samples water in the frigid Canadian River east of Oklahoma City.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After months of deliberation and closed-door meetings, lawmakers in the Oklahoma House and Senate are poised to cut a deal to fill a $1.3 billion shortfall and fund government for 2017.

The $6.8 billion presumptive budget agreement has been praised for preserving money for education, prisons and Medicaid, but some of the sharpest cuts are aimed at agencies that regulate industry and protect the environment.

Nathan and Brooke Hall.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Brooke Hall has lived in the Parkway Mobile Home Park most of her life. She’s never really liked the taste of the water that comes from the park’s wells, but she didn’t think it could be dangerous until she was in the hospital giving birth to her son.

“Doctors and nurses told me I needed to stop breastfeeding while they did blood work and tested for lead because they were afraid that, because I was drinking the water, that it would be passed through to him,” she says.

Tim Cross, chief operator of the water treatment plant in Chandler, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Many of the programs protecting Oklahoma’s air and land are paid for with fees and federal dollars. Oversight and inspection of local water systems, however, are funded by state revenue that has dwindled — and failed.

Chandler, a city of about 3,000 residents, like many small communities in Oklahoma, has struggled with deteriorating pipes and pumps, limited funding to make repairs and upgrades, and increasing demands to provide clean water to more and more customers.

The Hugo water treatment plant in July 2015.
Sarah Terry-Cobo / The Journal Record

The company that provides water services in Hugo says a customer doesn’t have standing to sue over water quality problems. Hugo resident Tara Lowrimore is suing Severn Trent Environmental Services for damages related to federal and state drinking water violations due to cloudiness and lack of chlorination.

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma's coal and natural gas-fired Northeastern generating station in Oologah, Okla.
@ Tom Nickell / Flickr

The Obama Administration recently announced stricter limits on ground-level ozone, a smog-causing pollutant closely monitored by environmentalists and the fossil fuel industry.

University of Oklahoma professor Bob Nairn stands on a bridge overlooking Tar Creek, which is contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead and zinc from decades of mining.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Tri-State Mining District in northeastern Oklahoma’s Ottawa County was once the world’s largest source of lead and zinc. The mines had closed by the 1970s, butpernicious pollution still plagues what is now known as the Tar Creek superfund site.

Hugo Lake Dam following recording-breaking rainfall in May 2015.
USACETULSA / Flickr

The company that runs Hugo’s water treatment plant is contesting the $3.17 million fine the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality levied against it for — as the Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reported in August — not using “enough chlorine for more than 300 days over the course of two years.”

Algae grow on the floor of the pipe room in the Hugo water plant because water leaks constantly, as shown in this late July photo.
Sarah Terry-Cobo / The Journal Record

About 7,000 residents in Hugo lived for months with unsafe drinking water because a private company improperly disinfected municipal water supplies and misreported data to local and state officials.

water well
Kashif Mardani / Flickr

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is offering free bacterial testing of private well water due to statewide flooding.

The agency announced Tuesday that the testing will be available until August 15.

The National Weather Service issued multiple tornado warnings Monday as a storm system spawned twisters and high winds across much of central and eastern Oklahoma.

Ozone is a major contributor to smog, seen here blanketing Los Angeles.
Pieter Edelman / Flickr

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal for stricter ozone standards has been praised by environmentalists as a step in the right direction and derided by industry groups, which argue the rules will cost jobs and lead to higher prices for electricity and natural gas.

Traffic moves along I-44 just west of a syrup spill that shut down one lane of the highway Wednesday morning.
Oklahoma Dept. of Transportation

Oklahoma is in compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone as the 2014 ozone season draws to a close.

Compliance is determined by an average at each ozone monitoring site in the state. Drought and high temperatures in 2011 and 2012 resulted in the state exceeding the standard at monitors across the state. The 2013 and 2014 ozone seasons have been dramatically better.

While the control of emissions contributed to the lower ozone readings, other factors including weather, fewer wildfires and less demand for electricity also played a role.

Mass. Dept. of Energy / Flickr.com

The Environmental Protection Agency and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality will meet next week to discuss cleanup plans for the Tulsa Fuel and Manufacturing Superfund Site in Collinsville.

The Sept. 11 meeting will be held at Collinsville City Hall.

The site is an abandoned 60-acre zinc smelter, and cleanup of the site includes the consolidation and capping of waste, contaminated soil and sediments.

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