Homeowner struggles with noisy oil well site behind his home

Photo credit: David Brown

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Before buying a house in a new neighborhood in northwest Oklahoma City, homebuyer Larry Vargas noticed an empty field behind the house. When he asked the realtor if there were plans to develop the field, he was told it might become a storage unit for oil. He was reassured that this would be a “noiseless oil tank and nothing more.” Well, he learned on the first night in his new home that “noiseless” was anything but the truth. Instead, the sound was more a like a train, or a plane preparing to take off.

This article from KFOR4 describes how things got worse within a few weeks, when the nearby facility grew larger and a flare tower blowing fire was added. Vargas asked the city to measure the sound level, and someone did come to the facility. Unfortunately, the sound level appeared not to violate the city’s sound ordinance. But when Vargas measured the sound level on his own, it registered a higher decibel level than the city representative measured.

Vargas and his wife cannot enjoy their new home and he doubts that he can sell it at the price he paid. Thus, what are Vargas’ choices? He is hoping that the storage unit’s operations could be limited in the evening and on weekends. City officials informed him that he could complain to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state’s regulatory agency for fuel, oil and gas and public utilities. But the article ends with interesting information KFOR4 obtained from the Commission – it didn’t have any record of the well existing.

Will Vargas use this information to bring legal action against the facility? This might involve hiring an expensive attorney. During my many years as an advocate for a quieter society, I have come across similar cases where individuals believe they are moving into a quieter community. But shortly after moving in, they realize the community is not quiet. In some of these cases, lawsuits have been filed. And, a number of them were decided in favor of the residents. I encourage Vargas to explore his options to reduce the noise.

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