Bloomington residents protest injection well

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Oct. 6, 2013 at 5:06 a.m.
Updated Oct. 7, 2013 at 5:07 a.m.

Opponents to a proposed injection well in Bloomington are filing a protest to stop what could become the county's 20th active disposal well.

Commissioner Danny Garcia, who represents the Bloomington area, has joined more than 130 residents to oppose the well.

"The thing that concerns me is we have two water wells in Bloomington that supply water to the community," he said. "How far are those injection wells from our water sources?"

On Monday, Victoria County commissioners are expected to put the protest in the official county record.

According to the notice, published Sept. 19 by Houston-based Petrodome Operating, the company is proposing to dispose of saltwater or other oil and gas waste into the Catahoula, Heins Lease, Well No. 1, which is about 12 miles southeast of Victoria in the Bloomington field.

Amanda Maddings, engineering and geological technician at Petrodome, said the company has another well in the area.

"This is an offshoot of that," she said.

The permit, she said, is for an existing well that has been temporarily abandoned. She said the plan is to dispose of saltwater.

Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman with the Railroad Commission of Texas, said Friday that the commission had not received the permit.

There are 56 oil and gas disposal wells in Victoria County, of which 19 are active, according to Railroad Commission reports.

Regardless of whether a permit application is protested, the operator of a proposed disposal well must demonstrate two major conditions. The company must show that the proposed disposal well will not impact usable quality water and that the disposal fluid will remain confined to the disposal permitted interval, Nye said.

Although the state commission granted approval to a separate permit in 2011 to American Disposal, Commissioner Kevin Janak said the community was concerned about the well's proximity to the Guadalupe River.

The company later canceled its permit for a well near the intersection of Loop 463 and Farm-to-Market Road 1685.

"This is my opinion, in that case, you don't put a well that close upstream to the Guadalupe River, and you don't do that upstream of the city's deep wells," Janak said. "It was possibly going to affect drinking water for 70,000 people. If you put this well out in the middle of the country somewhere, out there where it belongs, away from water supplies, then in my opinion, that's where they need to be located, not that close to water supplies."

In the case of the Bloomington proposal, Janak said he is concerned about the well being older.

Bloomington Independent School District Superintendent Delores Warnell wrote a letter in protest of the permit application to the Railroad Commission.

She wants a public hearing so residents can get more information. For her, the most concerning piece is the potential for hazardous effects to the community and her students.

"Not having a lot of information makes us fearful," she said. "We don't know the potential effects that it can have on the people in this community. ... I want them to assure me that there are no harmful side effects or anything that will seep into our water."

Tim Andruss, general manager of the Victoria County Groundwater Conservation District, said the county's procedure is to automatically file a protest any time an injection well permit is requested so it can evaluate the application for any risks to the aquifer.

"The groundwater district has taken the position that injection wells may present a risk to the aquifers within Victoria County," he said. "In that area, we have a significant population that potentially could be affected should an injection well be placed there and fail."

Andruss has no interest in disrupting oil-field operations or development.

"I'm no apologist for the oil and gas industry," Andruss said. "Generally, there's a recognition that if you're going to have oil and gas development, you simultaneously have to have waste products to be disposed of. ... We want to make sure it's done in a way that doesn't damage the aquifer."

For Commissioner Garcia, there are too many unanswered questions.

"We need to get more educated as a community," he said. "Not just take an interest because that's the area I'm from, but as the county as a whole. We should be interested in anybody being in danger from an interest like this."

At the same time, he recognizes that it's a Catch-22.

"You have to have these injection wells; they have to go somewhere," he said. "The concern is it's too close to the community and too close to their groundwater source. ... Anything can happen, so why not stay away from the community?"



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