Yet another controversy involving the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, the source for much of Southeast Oklahoma’s water, has area residents concerned for the protection of their vital water resource.

Martin Marietta Materials is proposing to tap into the aquifer as a means of washing dust from rocks in a rock mining operation currently under construction northwest of Tishomingo. The company plans to use limestone it obtains for its 300-acre quarry to make concrete rock, asphalt rock and base.

According The Oklahoman, two federal agencies that originally objected to the plan have come to an agreement with the firm, apparently removing a potential hurdle for approval by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWB).

According to Dick Scalf of the Citizens for the Protection of Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, the problem is not one of potential contamination, but of aquifer water level that could affect springs and rivers that depend on the aquifer for their water.

“Huge amounts of water may go into the pit that will have to be pumped out to continue the mining process,” Scalf said. “If the water table in the aquifer is at 50 feet, and water for the mining company’s purposes go down to the 280 foot level in their pit, springs of water from a half mile to two miles away may be pulled down also, and wells go dry.”

Entering into the agreement were the National Park Service and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. “Meridian agreed to pay those agencies to do some monitoring for any potential damage,” Scalf said.

Meridian Aggregates, a subsidiary of Martin Marietta Materials, is petitioning the OWB for a permit to use up to 1,400 acre feet of water per year from a well drilled into the aquifer for its new quarry. Hearings for the permit request began this week and will likely reconvene in February 2006.

Martin Marietta Materials is the second largest aggregate company in the United States. It owns more than 300 quarries in 28 states and employs more than 6,500.

The Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer is an area of about 500 square miles in Murray, Johnston, Carter and Pontotoc counties. According to a U.S. Geological Survey, the aquifer is estimated to have nine million acre-feet of freshwater in storage.