TISHOMINGO — The removal of groundwater surfacing from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer during mining operations at a rock quarry north of Mill Creek was the primary focus of a hearing conducted by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board beginning Friday morning in Sulphur.

The issue of “pit dewatering” by Meridian Aggregates at its drilling operations at the North Troy Quarry is being considered as a part of an application by the mining company to drill a well and pump water from the aquifer for washing crushed and broken stone and dust suppression at the quarry.

The hearing Friday was the third round of questioning that began last fall to determine whether or not to grant the mining company a groundwater permit. It was held at the Murray County Exposition Center located on Highway 7 west of Sulphur.

Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer, a group that opposes the permit, planned a ralley before the hearing. “We are asking our members to show that we care about decisions on water withdrawn from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer,” Floy Parkhill, CPASA president, said.

While the permit application by the mining company is for a well to pump 1,400 acre feet of water from the aquifer, a potentially greater threat, according to Parkhill, is the removal and disposition of water surfacing in the quarry during drilling operations.

Questions about exactly what impact removing groundwater surfacing in  the quarry may have on the aquifer and springs and streams in the area remain unanswered, according to Parkhill.

Long range plans for the quarry call for rock excavation up to 285 feet below the surface.  The water table for the aquifer beneath the mine is estimated to be 90 feet below the ground’s surface.

Company officials maintain the quarry site is a tight rock formation and that little, if any, groundwater should be encountered.

Those protesting are not so sure.

The hearing is expected to continue in Sulphur on Monday, and, if necessary, will be moved to the OWRB office in Oklahoma City for the remainder of next week.

Since the passage of Senate Bill 288, the OWRB must consider whether an applicant’s proposed use of pumping groundwater from the aquifer is likely to degrade or interfere with springs or streams emanating from the Arbuckle-Simpson groundwater basin.

Major streams dependent on the aquifer in Johnston County include Pennington Creek and Blue River. 

Initially, Hearing Examiner Jerry Barnett issued an order refusing to allow testimony during the permit hearing about pit dewatering, but later reversed himself.

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