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Disposal wells common in Victoria County

By Brian Cuaron
Oct. 11, 2011 at 5:11 a.m.
Updated Oct. 12, 2011 at 5:12 a.m.


COMMERCIAL OR NON-COMMERCIAL

The difference between a commercial and non-commercial disposal well is that non-commercial wells only take waste produced on the site where oil-and-gas drilling occurs, Ramona Nye said.

There are 330 oil-and-gas leases in the county, said John Haliburton, chief appraiser for the Victoria County Appraisal District.

The purpose of non-commercial disposal wells was so that oil-and-gas companies don't have to haul saltwater to a commercial site, said Ken Roehl, who has worked in the industry for 43 years. Utilizing a commercial site is expensive.

Saltwater at times comes up mixed with oil, Roehl explained.

TIMELINE

Feb. 14 - Agreement between Fordyce Holdings Inc. and American Disposal takes effect, ending environmental lawsuit.

Feb. 17 - American Disposal takes out disposal well permit. A copy is sent to adjacent landowners.

June 2 - American Disposal receives injection well permit.

Aug. 3 - Commissioner Kevin Janak holds town hall, start of when most find out about the proposed disposal well.

Sept. 8 - Citizens group sends an about 600-signed petition against the disposal well to the railroad commission, state Sen. Glenn Hegar and state Rep. Geanie Morrison.

Sept. 12 - Commissioners court asks railroad commission for public hearings on disposal well and drilling permits.

Sept. 20 - Citizens group presents case to city council.

Sept. 28 - American Disposal cancels permit.

Although a disposal well created a controversy recently in Victoria County, they are common in the area.

There are 67 active disposal wells in the county, including six commercial disposal wells, said Ramona Nye, Texas Railroad Commission spokeswoman. There also are a total of 355 permitted wells in the county.

Disposal wells, also called injection wells, are used to dispose of saltwater brought up to the surface during oil and gas production, according to the commission's website. Disposal-well owners are required to use a three-casing system to prevent contamination of groundwater.

However, despite the number of disposal wells in the county, as well as multiple safety provisions, rural residents and elected officials rose up against a proposed disposal well last month.

American Disposal Services received a disposal well permit June 2 from the Texas Railroad Commission for a site near Farm-to-Market Road 1685 and U.S. Highway 77. The well would have injected the salt water at a depth between 2,700 to 3,100 feet, said J.D. Ivey, company president.

The company requested that its permit be cancelled on Sept. 28, after it said it found a site closer to the Eagle Ford Shale, where many of its customers drill. The railroad commission approved the request.

Opponents, such as Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Janak, said the site was too close to the Guadalupe River.

That was the same position for Ken Roehl, spokesman for the Victoria Residents for a Clean Water Community group that protested the well. He also thought the site was too close to nearby residents, who depend on private water wells to the Chicot and Evangeline aquifers.

The railroad commission doesn't require a certain distance between a water well and disposal wells, wrote Nye in an email. This was because disposal-well construction requirements already seek to protect usable quality groundwater.

Opponents said the lay of the land sloped to the river, Victoria's primary water source, endangering it should a spill occur at the site. Chemicals found in saltwater separated from oil can eat through the steel casing of a disposal well, Roehl explained.

Roehl also noted that American Disposal planned to move from its current Victoria County location after an environmental lawsuit alleged the company placed toxic materials on the surface. Janak said the proposed site had a history of flooding.

For his part, Ivey said that disposal wells near water sources were common in Texas. He said the planned safety provisions made the well "steel-door secure."



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