DEQ Investigates Wellston Aircraft Repair Business
WELLSTON, Oklahoma - A criminal investigation is in the works at an aircraft maintenance facility in Wellston after the Department of Environmental Quality found toxic chemicals leaking into the ground.
Representatives from the DEQ told News 9 they are still evaluating both the soil and water samples collected at Biggs Aircraft, but those were taken in September and neighbors are worried about lasting impacts.
When Steven Carter first learned that the DEQ was investigating the business next door for improperly disposing of paint stripping chemicals, his first thought was for his three young sons. He said they have all endured multiple ear, nose and throat infections, and Carter thinks the problem may be in the water, which often has a smell.
In a letter addressed to Carter in November, the agency stated, "During the investigation, DEQ identified several violations of the DEQ rules and regulations."
The state agency has not released test results of the sample taken from a faucet at Biggs Aircraft, however, and they will not come test Carter's well. He said, “They told me if I wanted it done that I could get with a private lab and get a sample taken and sent off. I’m not the only person here.”
Photos of the ground outside Biggs Aircraft's hangar taken last year before the DEQ stepped in show what appears to be dead and rotting vegetation. A month after the investigators' first visit, though, photos show portions of the ground had been cleaned and the DEQ ruled the Biggs family had taken steps to install a proper disposal system.
The agency stated in the letter to Carter, "The facility has installed an above ground system to contain the waste inside the two workshops. All the waste would be properly disposed of by a certified contractor."
Carter believes the damage was already done. “My biggest concern is I’m not the only family here with three children tapped into this water table,” he said, “and it’s simple enough to test to make sure nobody is drinking it.”
News 9 reached out to the Biggs family but they had no comment on the investigation.
The DEQ said this kind of chemical dumping is not an issue they see often, and they are still determining the scope of a full-scale clean-up. The agency is currently in the planning stages of the criminal investigation into this company.