Attorney waiting on court ruling on contaminated soil

Farm Forum

EDGEMONT — The South Dakota Supreme Court needs to issue a clear ruling on a proposed project to clean oil-contaminated soil near Edgemont before ballots can be counted on the issue, the Fall River state’s attorney said last week.

Voters in Fall River County were asked on Election Day whether they want oil-contaminated soil from other properties to be cleaned at a 5-acre site near Edgemont and used as topsoil or in construction projects. Fall River state’s attorney Jim Sword said last week he won’t count those ballots until the state’s high court rules whether they could affect the future of the proposed farm.

The project has been approved twice by the county commission in the last year, but it has faced opposition from local residents who question whether it’s safe. Opponents ultimately got the issue onto the ballot.

At the site, oil-contaminated soil would be brought in and stirred to remove contaminants. High Plains Resources LLC would own and operate the site.

The project proposed by the company was originally approved in March by the county commission, but the public wasn’t notified, so the commission rescinded its approval, the Rapid City Journal reported.

It later held public meetings and approved the project again, but residents concerned about whether it was safe gathered enough signatures to put the question of the project’s future on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Despite landing on the ballot, High Plains challenged the initiative in court. On Oct. 31, Circuit Judge Robert Mandel ruled that the commission couldn’t rescind its original approval of the project and said the results of the ballot question had no bearing.

Sword said he has challenged Mandel’s decision and asked the state’s high court to put the circuit court’s decision on hold. Until a ruling comes from the Supreme Court, Sword said, officials will keep the uncounted ballots Fall River County Treasurer’s Office.