COWLINGTON, Okla. (AP) _ A proposed rock quarry in the center of this eastern Oklahoma town has drawn opposition from many of the Le Flore County community's 130 residents.
The Oklahoma Department of Mines is considering whether to issue a permit for the quarry, which would be the first such permit granted inside the city limits of any community. Last month, more than 100 people signed a petition expressing their concerns.
Cowlington resident Lori Nelson said the peaceful life she and her husband, Gary, have enjoyed since 1989 was shattered in 2005 when heavy equipment started tearing up the earth in search of rock just a few feet from their bedroom window.
``We had no notice, no warning at all,'' Lori Nelson said. ``They just showed up one morning.''
During the next year, Roy Don Johnson, doing business as D&B Stone, mined the allowed 500 tons of rock from the approximately two acres under an ``exemption'' permit. Johnson has now applied for a full-time permit that would allow him to mine rock on an additional 19 acres for the next 20 years.
``We used to couldn't wait to go home to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet,'' she said. ``It's a shocking thing when you don't even want to come home anymore. We used to have family and friends over to eat outside and swim in the summertime, but we had to quit doing that. Our pool was full of dust that was so fine that it could not be filtered.''
Nelson said the mining often started just after 6 a.m. and continued until 8 p.m. A video she shot shows fine particles of dust unleashed from the quarry and records the noise of the equipment and constant chipping away at the rock.
Retired geologist Fox Wood, 87, says he is amazed that the state mining department granted an exemption permit for the quarry and would consider granting a full-time permit.
``What person with any common sense would grant a permit to mine right in the dead middle of town?'' Wood said. ``The town is only one square mile and the mine would take up 21 acres of it. They are going to let them come in and destroy a little town just for a few rocks.''
Wood's son, Sallisaw attorney Clark Wood, is donating his services to help the town wage a legal battle against both the mining company and the landowner, Lawrence Burris.
``They got a court order to close the streets and alleyways after they had already mined it,'' Fox Wood said. ``Plus, the trucks hauling the rock out has damaged the streets.''
In addition to the lawsuit filed by the town, several families are seeking compensation for damage to their property. Allen Henson, a member of the town council, is one of them.
Henson said his well has collapsed twice and knows others who have had similar problems. Some people claim that the structure of their homes is being compromised as a result of the shifting of the earth.
``Little towns like ours don't have the money to wage an expensive legal battle,'' Wood said. ``If they grant this permit, other small towns may be next.
``Imagine having an empty lot next to you one day and a rock quarry the next.''