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Residents cite noise, dust in efforts to halt limestone mine

A map of Greenhill Properties' plans for a limestone mine in the Owasso area.
Tulsa County
A map of Greenhill Properties' plans for a limestone mine in the Owasso area.

Plans to build a mine in the Owasso area have upset area residents who believe the development will at least disrupt their quiet pace of life — or at worst, sully the atmosphere.

A zoning request submitted to Tulsa County shows Greenhill Properties would build the limestone quarry near the intersection of Highway 169 and East 56th Street. Developers say the bed of limestone is 80 feet deep, and sits roughly four feet beneath the ground.

Construction manager Matt Ritchie said this project would be added onto three additional quarries that currently satisfy the Tulsa area’s demand for stone. The area currently needs roughly 7.5 million tons of stone per year.

Ritchie said the mine must open to keep materials flowing.

“If we only have five years left to mine at the current clip that we’re extracting rock from the ground, it’s hard to go out and spend a bunch of money on upgrading equipment and doing additional things,” Ritchie said.

To build the mine, Greenhill owner Nathan Cross has requested the county zone the area for development. He said it’s the first phase in a lengthy construction process — Ritchie estimated the quarry would take more than 10 years to complete.

The plans prompted several residents who live in the Owasso area to show up to the meeting, where they tried to keep commissioners from approving the zoning change. The vote on the zoning change was ultimately tabled, but because commissioners believed the ordinance needed to be updated to include language banning a landfill on the property.

Resident Pamela Kirk went so far as to say the other quarries referenced by Ritchie have hurt the public’s health, safety and welfare. She made her case using her experience with the other quarries which she said produce too much dust. Residents reportedly aren’t satisfied with the Oklahoma Department of Mines’ response to their complaints.

“In terms of the dust, I have not seen a solution that works for the residents in that arena at all,” said Kirk.

Ritchie argued the other three mines are free of citations — if they weren’t, they’d have to stop production, he said.

“The state actually has a very robust system of oversight, which includes a request-based inspection based on complaints, as well as spot checks,” Cross said.

Public Radio Tulsa has requested all complaints against Greenhill quarries over the past 10 years submitted to the Department of Mines.

Marsheila Pryor said her parents and brother both live within 600 feet, or two football fields’ length, of the mine. She’s concerned they’ll have to listen to explosions.

“I know you guys have to think about development. I know you have to think about income. But also, the homeowners vote, you know? We voted for you to protect us,” she said.

“It’s been an incredibly quiet area, and it would be a travesty for that to go away,” said resident Brett Lambert.

Kirk and Lambert voiced concerns about flooding from the project, but developers told commissioners flooding had been taken into consideration in the plans.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.