Water tests raise questions about Venus injection well

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on April 5, 2012 at 11:02 PM

VENUS, Texas - Tuesday's storms have stirred up more questions about an injection well in Venus. Land owners are worried about chemicals mixing with rainwater, and possibly spilling into a creek that empties into Joe Pool Lake.

Property manager Tim McCloskey scans the creek bed in his pasture everyday. Two days after the storm, he can still spot a slick sheen coating the surface. It's floating less than a half-mile down stream from where fracking trucks drop saltwater into an injection well.

"We've had those waters tested and there were high chlorides in that water coming into some puddles that were just sitting in the field," McCloskey said.

McCloskey showed News 8 home video of cloudy, white water flowing out of the well site during a heavy rain in January. He says it left behind a salty, white ring on the banks of the creek that runs through the pasture.

McCloskey and land owner Jennifer Dunlap sent water samples to TALEM, Inc laboratories. Results from tests conducted in January and March have been returned, and the lab indicated elevated levels of chlorides.

Samples in January revealed chloride levels at 520 parts per million. March samples were taken from different parts of the creek. The sample closest to the well site registered 1000ppm. A small pond downstream recorded 740ppm. Upstream from the well, samples marked 43ppm.

The Texas Railroad Commission e-mailed News 8 and said there is not a "statewide cleanup standard for chloride," but it considers 300 parts per million a "default cleanup level" for well operators. It is a secondary drinking water standard based on aesthetics for color, odor and taste. Three-hundred parts per million is not a health-based standard. The railroad commission also said safety levels are determined on a case-by-case basis, because of naturally occurring background levels.

The last time the state tested the stream was September, during the drought, according to the commission. It said there were no violations then, and hasn't checked it since.

Jennifer Dunlap said the well site's containment levy was breached at least twice with heavy rainstorms in December and January. She wants inspectors to return to check the water again.

"The response from the railroad commission is they have gone above and beyond the regulations," Dunlap said.

She said she has spent thousands of dollars on the water tests, and she can see the film in the water and chalky white haze on the banks of the creek. She hired an environmental attorney to evaluate the test results further.

"Hopefully, we can get the EPA and the TCEQ to contact us, and help us with the scope of what our next action will be," Dunlap said.

The Texas Railroad commission told News 8 the well complied with a routine inspection in February. It also checked the well in September after a complaint, and found a firewall violation. That was the well's only violation since August 2011. At that inspection, the inspector found no violations or "any indication that the well was leaking."

The injection well owner did not return our calls.

McCloskey isn't giving up his search for answers, as long as he spots that film trickling down the stream.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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