Drinking water deemed safe after oil leak in Okemah Lake; interim city manager says testing will continue to ensure safety of citizens

By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter

Okemah’s water has been deemed safe after a ruptured pipe last week resulted in an oil leak into the Okemah Lake, causing concerns of contamination to the city’s water supply for city officials.

Interim City Manager Dustin Danker said Friday the Department of Environmental Quality had conducted tests following the discovery of the leak — sampling the lake’s water, the water at the intake structure and the raw water going into treatment plant — to determine whether or not the leaked oil was contaminating the water being supplied to the municipality and surrounding areas.

“The results came back negative for contamination,” Danker told the News Leader Friday during a phone interview.

The focal point of the leak is in the area of Buckeye Creek where it feeds into the lake, and the city’s intake structure sending water to the treatment plant is at Jaycee Point, areas not so near each other.

Danker had said in an earlier report that because the intake structure pulls water from the bottom of the lake and oil floats on water, he and other officials felt confident the water was safe — an assessment that turned out to be correct.

Though that may be the case, Danker said, “We are going to continue to test the water throughout this ordeal to ensure the safety of our drinking water for our citizens.”

“We just want to make sure nothing slips by,” he added.

Danker, who recently took over the role as interim city manager, is also the superintendent of Okemah’s water treatment plant, making this incident one that is of utmost importance at both positions.

As for the oil in the lake, Danker said the owner of the ruptured pipe, a company called Enerfin, is responsible for its cleanup, adding, “The lake is going to be closed to boats until we get the go ahead from Enerfin that they have it contained.”

“We don’t want boats pushing (the oil) around,” he said. “They have called an environmental cleaning crew to come out and do the work on the cleanup.”

He said he was not given a timeframe on the completion of the cleanup.

“I assume the main body (of water at the lake) is going to go fast, and then they will probably continue to work in the (Buckeye) creek where it is the worst by far,” the interim manager said.

Since this is the second leak over the last year and a half, Danker said the city has now purchased equipment — called oil-absorbent booms — to help contain any future spill.

“We, the city, bought the booms to have in the case that this happens again,” he said. “I just want to be proactive and not wait (on the cleanup) if it does happen again.”

The earlier leak, which was in the same general area of Buckeye Creek back in May 2017, happened as a result of a broken flow line, but Danker said the two are not related, adding the pipes are owned by two separate companies.

He then reiterated that the testing of the water will continue as the lake is being cleaned.

More information concerning this matter will follow should anything change.

For now, the water is safe, but the lake is closed until further notice. The News Leader will report the reopening of the lake after the oil cleanup and any additional information as it is made available.

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