Neighbors upset over Braum's pollution

Friday, November 12th 2004, 11:23 am
By: News On 6

SHATTUCK, Okla. (AP)_ Environmental regulators have begun enforcement proceedings on a cattle operation for Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Stores that has been accused of releasing pollution into a creek.

A group of Shattuck residents who are upset over the pollution discussed the situation in a meeting Thursday.

They plan to lobby Oklahoma lawmakers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step up enforcement of pollution laws.

Braum's Follett Farm covers 20,000 acres in Texas' Lipscomb County and Ellis County in Oklahoma.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has begun enforcement proceedings against Braum's for the dumping of waste into Wolf Creek, which flows into Oklahoma.

Company spokesman Terry Holden said Braum's remains confident in the Follett operation and is waiting for an opportunity to meet with Texas regulators.

Monty Elder, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, said the state's environmental regulation falls under a number of state agencies, including the Agriculture Department, Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Corporation Commission.

``Our folks did look at the situation, and as far as we could determine, the problem was coming from the facilities across the border in Texas,'' Elder said. ``We did notify Texas, which did an inspection and found a number of violations. They are proceeding with enforcement there.''

Shattuck resident Sharon Bradshaw was among a dozen residents who met with Ellis County Sheriff DeWayne Miller and Lipscomb County Sheriff James Robertson on Thursday.

Bradshaw said the alleged contamination should concern all Oklahomans, especially since Wolf Creek is part of the same watershed that supplies water to central Oklahoma.

``We're downstream from the source of the contamination, so we're actually receiving the brunt of the pollution and contamination problem more so than Texas,'' Bradshaw said. ``I think it would be appropriate for the EPA to get involved at the federal level, otherwise things might fall through the cracks.

``It's our way of life we're tying to preserve. We're not trying to blackball Braum's or the dairy industry or create problems for anyone who is making an effort to do things right.''

Henry Welch, who worked at Braum Farm for one year and eight months, said the farm has several pits within 100 feet of Wolf Creek where hundreds of dead cattle, barrels and trash are buried on a regular basis.

``They would bury dead cattle and everything else they could think of and then cover it up,'' he said.

He also said effluent from the dairy barns flows into Wolf Creek.