Cherokee Nation assists Oaks with wastewater project


The small wastewater treatment plant located just north of the Oaks Mission School will be dismantled and filled in once construction of the new facility is completed.

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OAKS, Okla. —The Cherokee Nation is among several agencies helping the town of Oaks and its about 300 residents build a new $1.6 million wastewater treatment plant by next summer.

The current wastewater system in Oaks, in Delaware and Cherokee counties, has been at capacity for more than a decade, which stymied growth and needed to be brought up to state environmental codes.

“We are committed to raising the quality of life in communities within Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Creating partnerships that expand critical infrastructure helps all citizens in Oaks, Cherokee and non-Cherokee alike. We are proud to play our role in making those improvements.” 

The Cherokee Nation provided more than $350,000 for the treatment system, which includes three lagoons on 40 acres north of Oaks Mission School. The tribe is also providing inspection and technical assistance on the project.

“Initially, we had been approached by the town because they had been cited by the department of environmental quality for the existing cell they had at the wastewater treatment plant,” said Chris Sams, engineering manager for the Cherokee Nation water and sanitation program. “It was overflowing, so there was a threat it would spill over into Spring Creek.”

Cherokee Nation provided a temporary solution in 2008, a sprinkler system that kept the water level low enough that the lagoon did not spill over. If the town is to see new growth, a bigger and more effective system is needed.

“We’ve never been able to put any businesses into our town, and actually nobody can even build because there’s not enough room in our sewer to expand for housing, businesses or anything. This will help a lot in that we won’t have to turn people down who want to build,” said Darla Whorton, Oaks town clerk and treasurer.

Also helping Oaks Public Works Authority for the new wastewater plant is the Oklahoma Commerce Department, Grand Gateway Economic Development Association, Indian Health Service, Oklahoma Water Resources Board and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cook Construction, a TERO-certified company out of Fort Gibson, is building the new facility.

In fiscal year 2012, the Cherokee Nation provided $5 million in water and sewer projects within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction, including Gore wastewater lagoon improvements in Sequoyah County and Sperry water tank rehab in Tulsa County. The Cherokee Nation has a long-standing history of protecting environmental and natural resources. The new Oaks wastewater will flow from homes and businesses into the three lagoons. The water is finally dispersed over a 30-acre field through a sprinkler system as cleaner, effluent water. The new system will be roughly ten times bigger.

Cherokee Nation News Release
Julie Hubbard - 918-207-3896 

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