Runoff from injection well site worries land owners

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on January 27, 2012 at 11:58 PM

JOHNSON COUNTY - Rain raised lake levels and eyebrows in Johnson County.

Water broke through a containment wall at a saltwater injection well and into a creek. Land owners want to know why authorities aren't doing more to stop it.

Home video shows white water pouring through the berm during Wednesday's rainstorm. What was supposed to be contained inside the saltwater injection well site ran through an unnamed creek.

The property owner says it's not the first time the berm has broken.

"It does look different. It does smell different," Jennifer Dunlap said. "And we have had instances when the water in the creek has a sheen on top of the water."

Dunlap is worried the cloudy, white water could be mixed with fracking fluids. Every day, dozens of trucks unleash fracking wastewater into a trough system. It splashes out the back of the tankers.

That waste is collected in the trough and pumped into tanks, a reservoir or underground, but Dunlap is not sure how much from the haulers sprays onto the ground, sitting there until a heavy rain pushes it all into her pastures.

"We've had some cattle that have been sick," Dunlap said. "Of course all the trees along the creek have died."

She pointed to home video that showed dead trees near the creek bed.

Video taken Dec. 5 shows a fog running through the creek. After a year of wondering about the site, that event was enough for Tim McCloskey to start documenting overflows with his camera.

"This is our creek here, and in the summer time, there is a lot of white haze along the sides of it after the water recedes," McCloskey said, pointing to the stream that runs the length of the property.

The EPA says it has investigated two complaints.

On Oct. 13 and Dec. 5, 2011, it found no violations of the Clean Water Act. A spokesperson said rainwater that over tops the berm is not illegal.

Containment is enforced by the Texas Railroad Commission. It says all sites are required to have secondary system, in case storage tanks leak. Laws say rainwater runoff is only a problem if the water contains elevated chlorides. That would prove contact with oil and gas waste.

The Railroad Commission didn't say if it tested the water from this site.

The company did not return calls from News 8, but a manager at the site showed us how standing rainwater was pumped into those same haulers. Once collected, it was then dropped into the trough with the fracking waste.

The manager said there was never a breach in the earthen wall, but from Dunlap's property and inside the wall, one can clearly identify new gravel filling a gap in mud and grass.

Dunlap has hired a private lab to test water samples on her property.

"We know that creek goes into Joe Pool Lake, which is one of the main water sources for North Texas," she said. "I know I would not want to have that lake contaminated."

Lab Tests may not reveal any contamination, but Dunlap wants to know what's in the water as long as it continues to flow through her pastures.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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