Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

OWRB Adopts Rules Cracking Down On Mining Companies That Waste Water

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

New state water rules could affect limestone, sand and gravel operations like this Martin Marietta mine above the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer near Mill Creek, Okla.

Right now, Oklahoma law requires permits for the removal and use of both ground and surface water. But the water removed by the companies during the limestone and sand mining process fell outside of the rules — until now.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board adopted new regulations (PDF of the new rules) on the aggregate mining industry’s use of groundwater during its February 19th meeting.

The changes came after a public hearing in January that led to amendments being made to the original rules written by the OWRB late last year.

Some, like Amy Ford with Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, weren’t happy with those original rules and their exemption for mines already in operation.

“The OWRB went back and listened and took into consideration all of those comments and basically came out with redrafted rules that were much clearer in the path existing operations would have to take to manage that water,” Ford says. “The aggregates industry was not in support of the original draft rules, nor the revised rules.”

The new version makes it clear that existing companies, though they won’t immediately have to implement a plan to recycle the water displaced by mining, do have to monitor the amounts of water pumped out, and will only be able to displace so much, their ‘equal proportionate share,’ before losing their exemption.

Those ‘equal proportionate shares’ are in the process of being determined.

OWRB Executive Director J.D. Strong:

“In our minds, at least, we didn’t really change anything from the original to the revised version in terms of what is required, but some people were clearly confused by the way the original rules were proposed, and so we made some clarifications that make it easier to understand and connect the dots.”

The legislature has 45 days to object to the rules, or they go on to Governor Mary Fallin’s office for approval or rejection.

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