Oily sheen on Okemah Lake

Oily sheen on Okemah Lake
(Darren Delaune/Reporter) MCN Environmental Services Department continues to monitor an oil spill near Okemah Lake. Officials said the oil did make it into the water but has not affected the quality of water.

Angel Ellis/Reporter

Officials assure residents water safe for consumption

OKEMAH, Oklahoma —For the second time since Dec. 2018 residents of Okemah have been reassured of their water was safe for drinking. On Feb. 25, photos claiming to be oil covered hands surfaced on Facebook.

According to MCN Environmental specialist Brett Sands, the oil spill is something his department has been monitoring over the last for few months.

“It happened in mid-December,” Sands said. “We reached out to ODEQ (Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality), and they have deemed the water safe for drinking, bathing, and cooking.”

The mess was reported for the second time on Facebook by Maxey Reilly, who stated she found evidence of the oil on her property. It originated from nearby Buckeye Creek where an old damaged pipe was discovered leaking oil.

“In December a degraded pipe that carried oil crossed over the creek broke spilling contents into the creek,” Reilly said. “The oil made it all the way to the lake.”

She reported the oil as significant and stated it could be seen all over the lake.

Reilly confirmed with neighbors across the lake about the oily sheen spreading.

“I know it was reported completely across the lake,” she said. “It was cleaned up, but with the rain we’ve had, and because that damaged pipe is still there, it’s surfaced again.”

When the oil was first spotted, newspapers reported that city and county employees contained contamination with absorbent booms.

City officials contacted the DEQ on the first sighting of oil in the water.  According to statements released by DEQ, the oil was not a danger to the public source of drinking water.

Water samples were taken and analyzed but deemed safe back in December.

In a statement issued by the City of Okemah on Feb 25, officials assured the public they were working with Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) through this second round of oil seepage, which is governing body dealing with oil-related incidents.

According to the corporation commission, cleanup crews will be replacing existing absorbent material now in place at the site, and the OCC Oil and Gas Division will continue to work with the operation responsible for addressing any concerns from residents and Okemah officials and for ensuring successful completion of the cleanup program.

Learning of the issue early Saturday, City Manager Dustin Danker said he immediately began contacting the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), which is governing body dealing with oil-related incidents.

Danker said by noon Sunday he had an OCC representative on-site.

“OCC officials confirmed the oil present at Okemah Lake is not from a new leak,” Danker said.

Danker was put in contact with the OCC Environmental Head Shawn Coslett.

“Coslett assured me the OCC was on top of this, going through the steps and working with the oil company to resolve this issue,” Danker said.

It’s not going to be a quick and easy clean up according to officials.

“It’s going to take some time to get this resolved,” Danker said. “The (oil-absorbent) booms, which were frequently interchanged, will be in place for several more weeks.”

The oil company responsible for the cleanup had previously said the bulk of the oil had been removed. The company remains responsible for the cleanup according to City Officials.

Brett Sands stated that the oil pipe was owned by Enerfin and there is no data available as to exactly how much oil has made its way into the lake water.

“This is going to be an ongoing deal,” Sands said.

He stated that MCN’s environmental department would continue to monitor the situation.

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  • John Wilkins
    March 29, 2019, 6:53 pm

    Ok a couple of things this is not the first leak on that pipe there have been atleast 2 other leaks previously to this leak! 2 years ago the corporation commission of a leak and in discussions they was notified of a tree that was up creek from the pipe and it was only a matter of time before it came down stream and broke the pipe!

    The broken pipe has been gone since the end of December and there discrepancies in her pictures. They are still working on removing contaminated soil as of today.