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Skull Creek to get new life

By Hailey Branson-Potts, Staff Writer Published: October 10, 2010
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photo - Melvin Morris Jr. stands beside the creek that he played in as a kid, which was run off water from a superfund site. Clean up is taking place on the superfund site in Cushing, Okla onTuesday June 22, 2009. Photo by Mitchell Alcala, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
Melvin Morris Jr. stands beside the creek that he played in as a kid, which was run off water from a superfund site. Clean up is taking place on the superfund site in Cushing, Okla onTuesday June 22, 2009. Photo by Mitchell Alcala, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
CUSHING — Like an ode to its ominous name, Skull Creek smelled like something had died during the years the Hudson Creek Refinery was active.

“They would let stuff go down that creek, and it would smell like rotten eggs,” said Melvin Morris Sr., who has lived in a blue house across the street from the old refinery site since 1949.

“I complained, but it didn't do any good,” he said. “What we said didn't amount to anything.”

That's changing.

The narrow creek cutting through Morris' yard is benefiting from a decadelong cleanup of the toxic Hudson Refinery Superfund site.

The creek cuts through an eastern portion of the refinery site north of state Highway 33. After cleanup ends later this year, water from several ponds on the site deemed safe by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality will be discharged into the creek.

In years past, untreated wastewater from the ponds spilled into Skull Creek, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report. The ponds held waste and stormwater and acted as natural filters to remove hazardous sediment. Untreated water often found its way into the nearby creek, causing the stench Morris remembers.

During the site cleanup, ponds are being drained and the exposed soil excavated and replaced.

Only water that has been tested and filtered will be discharged into Skull Creek, which often sits dry.

“We know the water we are putting in is clean,” said Byron Starns, the project coordinator for the site and an attorney for Land O'Lakes, which owns the property.

Melvin Morris Jr.

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