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$430K Awarded for Restoration of Natural Resources Injured by Discharge
Date Posted: July 10, 2006The Department of the Interior (DOI), represented by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), and the State of Oklahoma (State) will receive $430K in settlement from the City of Okmulgee, Oklahoma (City), to restore natural resources injured in the August 2000 discharge of raw sewage into the Deep Fork River from the City's wastewater treatment plant.
The discharge killed aquatic life within 11 miles of river on the Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge, as documented by the Service's investigation. According to Jerry Brabander, Oklahoma Ecological Services Field Supervisor, "The sewage discharge killed thousands of aquatic organisms, including numerous fish and mussel species that have important human and ecological value. Ammonia from sewage can be acutely toxic to mussels and fish, while other pollutants in sewage remove the oxygen from the water."
The DOI, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the State offered the City a global settlement of $900K for fines and damages from the spill. In addition, the City has had to make significant upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant. The Service, State, and EPA representatives have worked together with the City over the past six years to determine the appropriate settlement amount. "The process has taken a long time, but in the end the citizens of Okmulgee and the aquatic species will have a cleaner river because of the strides made by all parties," said Service biologist, Suzanne Dudding.
The consent decree was filed April 14, 2006. The Service is currently working with the State to prepare a restoration plan to compensate for the injuries to the natural resources for which the DOI and State have trusteeship. The public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the restoration plan once it has been drafted.