The Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer (CPASA) and Hanson Aggregates LLC briefed local citizens, public officials and members of the press about a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into between CPASA and the company relating to Hanson’s water management of its proposed quarry near Mill Creek in Johnston County. The agreement will be incorporated into Hanson’s water-use and mining permits.
CPASA is a non-profit organization based in Tishomingo, Okla., whose mission is to preserve and protect the springs of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer.
A portion of Hanson’s 3,500 acres overlies the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer and the MOU ensures that Hanson’s operation of its quarry is protective of the Aquifer and of springs and streams emanating from the Aquifer. The MOU contains terms and conditions which are protective of the Aquifer’s groundwater and surface water, under which Hanson will operate its quarry.
Hanson filed its original permit applications with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) in 2007. Oklahoma designated the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer as a Sensitive Sole Source Groundwater Basin in 2003, and that fact prompted a series of discussions between the OWRB and interested parties, the most frequent being with CPASA. The MOU is the culmination of months of discussions between CPASA and Hanson.
“We knew about the concerns associated with any activity, especially mining, that could affect the volume and quality of both the aquifer and surface water at our property,” said Phil Holland, vice president and general manager, aggregates, of the company’s south region, “and that drove a desire to be very transparent with local stakeholders well before we finalized our permit applications with the state.”
“We appreciate Hanson’s approach,” said Amy Ford, president of CPASA. “CPASA is, and always has been, diligently fighting for the protection of the Aquifer and this MOU is the culmination of those continued efforts. Having Hanson approach CPASA prior to moving forward with either its mining or water permit applications shows not only its willingness to address community concerns, but also its understanding that the preservation of the Aquifer is ultimately vital to its own business model.”
The MOU specifically focuses on Hanson’s operation of the quarry in a manner that is protective of the Aquifer and surface water. Incorporating the MOU into Hanson’s operating permits when they are issued by the state of Oklahoma makes the conditions outlined in the MOU legally enforceable. Many of the conditions go beyond current state regulatory requirements.
“Our company is serious about sustainable development,” said Holland, “and we were confident entering into our discussions with CPASA representatives that our environmental and mining management practices could sufficiently address local concerns – especially about water – and also meet our business needs.”
“An essential objective of the MOU,” added Ford, “was to ensure the long-term sustainable management of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer. Hanson has agreed to a number of issues that are important to CPASA’s mission and, for the first time, CPASA will have a role in seeing that a mining operation in the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer falls within our ultimate goal of protecting the springs and streams.”
Key features of the agreement include:
- Setting maximum annual limits on volume and use of all groundwater and surface water, including pit water from groundwater infiltration.
- Hanson’s support for regulating pit water.
- The formation of a community advisory panel and technical advisory committee that will review Hanson’s operating and water use plans prior to beginning or changing mining operations.
- Hanson’s incorporation of the technical advisory committee’s recommendations regarding a monitoring system on the aquifer and Mill Creek.
- Monitoring groundwater and surface water for at least one year prior to commencing mining activities and continuing the monitoring system throughout the life of the mine.
- Implementing a system to monitor groundwater and rain water volumes entering the mine pit and used in aggregates washing, as recommended by the technical advisory committee.
- Establishing a base flow for Mill Creek to ensure that the water used by Hanson for quarry operations does not negatively impact the minimum water flow necessary to maintain the environmental integrity of Mill Creek.
- Providing at least one year’s advance notice before commencing aggregates washing activities at the quarry.
“I believe everyone can take a lot of pride in what we have accomplished,” said Ford. “Cooperative dialogue and setting common objectives may not be the typical view of how industrial operations and environmental organizations interact, but we hope this process sets a standard that others can follow. It’s a historic moment for our community and for the environment we all enjoy.”