Oklahoma working on keeping its state parks open, despite sewer problems

Wednesday, July 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Poor sewage systems are forcing some Oklahoma state parks to shut down some of their bathrooms Wednesday. State environmental officials set Wednesday as the deadline for Tenkiller and Sequoyah state parks to cutback on some of their services. But park officials say this shouldn't ruin summer fun at Oklahoma lakes.

Officials are doing what they can to keep the tents pitched, the RV's parked and Oklahomans playing at our state parks.

But outdated sewer systems are forcing them to shutdown some bathroom facilities. Sterling Zearly: "Everybody's still going to be open. They're wanting us to put chemical toilets in the campground areas." The Department of Environmental Quality is considering a three-week extension for Tenkiller State Park. That would allow some park bathrooms and showers to remain open, but would still close facilities on three campgrounds on the north side of the park.

Sequoyah State Park is also shutting down its bathrooms and bringing in 16 portable toilets. But thanks to a last minute compromise for Western Hills Lodge, all of its facilities will stay open. JW Wright, Western Hills Manager, "DEQ gave us a list of things we had to do by certain time periods that goes up to January first. And as long as we meet those criteria, which we anticipate have no problem doing, we'll remain open as is.”

To keep Western Hills open, park officials are releasing treated wastewater from this lagoon into a secluded 300-acre field. Environmental officials say it's a common practice that actually acts as a fertilizer for the field, but it's only a temporary solution. Park officials stress no wastewater runoff will go into Fort Gibson Lake.

Sterling Zearly: "We do test our swim beach every week to make sure there's not any problem and we have not had any problem at this point with that.” But Sequoyah State Park officials are working on putting in a new septic system in to get the water running soon.

They say considering the sweltering heat and the sewer problems, business has been pretty good.