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Green Country Church Closed Due To Toxic Soil

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Oil from the bottom of a well sitting under The First Assembly of God church in Bristow. Oil from the bottom of a well sitting under The First Assembly of God church in Bristow.
Pastor Mark Evans. Pastor Mark Evans.
Monty Elder with the Department of Environmental Quality. Monty Elder with the Department of Environmental Quality.
BRISTOW, Oklahoma -

A Green Country church discovered its foundation is rooted in toxic soil, now the church building is closing.

The First Assembly of God stands tall on what used to be an oil refinery. It never caused a problem until the Department of Environmental Quality said a water well tested positive for contamination.

Pastor Mark Evans dropped a string to the bottom of the 130 foot well. When he took it out, it was covered in oil.

"It's unbelievable how much waste is in here," Evans said.

He said his son discovered the black bubbly goo.

"One day he comes up and he's got black on his hands and black on his feet and I said, ‘Christian what have you been doing down here,'" said Evans.

The Department of Environmental Quality recently placed the 125 acre area known as the Wilcox Oil Company on the Superfund list. That means federal dollars will be used to clean the property.

There are multiple homes where the refinery once stood and that is why it was a packed house at the Bristow Library as the DEQ and Environmental Protection Agency explained what's next.

Monty Elder with the DEQ said, "What we're really concerned about is direct contact with contamination, so we're going to tell people if you see contamination, avoid that."

Evans said they took a proactive measure and decided to close the church doors. They've been having services at the First Church of God, until their new place is finished.

They're in the process of transforming an old downtown bar into a place of worship.

"Can you imagine taking a building that once dispensed alcohol and using it as a building that dispenses God's grace; and that's been our vision," Evans said.

The DEQ said it will start an investigation to determine just how toxic the oil is. That process could take a while, considering the oil refinery was built in 1915.

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