Drilling pits taint Montague County water




Posted on March 16, 2011 at 10:24 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 17 at 12:33 AM

MONTAGUE COUNTY — North Texas ranchers and homeowners are fighting open pits of drilling mud waste near their properties, but there's little they can do.

Now comes confirmation that some of those pits are contaminating four water wells in Montague County.

The mud pits are often created when companies drill for oil and natural gas in North Texas. They are reservoirs for the chemicals, clays and oils used to make drilling the well easier, water used to clean equipment, and the pieces of rock pushed up by the drilling.

And those mini man-made muck-lakes are often ten feet or less from drinking water supplies.

"It's a mighty fine line between the depth of that pit and the water-bearing sand, and so we're extremely concerned," said Bob Patterson, general manager of the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, responsible for Hood, Wise, Parker, and Montague counties.

He said testing shows drilling mud pits contaminated four family water wells in Montague County. "They do show contamination and that issue is being followed through with us, and, of course, TCEQ, and it will be ongoing," Patterson said.

Montague County landowners are organizing to bring pressure on drilling firms to to use so-called closed-loop systems that truck waste away, eliminating the need for an open pit of sludge.

"I don't think it's contaminated yet, that's the thing," said landowner Brent Husfeld. "We're wanting to stop it before perhaps it does get contaminated."

Drilling mud reserve pits are legal. Drillers, however, are required to remove as much liquid as possible. After that, the pits are covered.

Husfeld called state environmental regulators, worried about the oil and water removed from a pit on his family's land.

"They said, 'Now wait a minute. Has it contaminated your groundwater? Has it contaminated your stock tank?' and I said, 'No.' And they said, 'Well, call me when it does.'"

Husfeld and other Montague families are meeting with politicians and drilling company representatives Thursday night at seven o'clock at the Salona Community Center.

E-mail chawes@wfaa.com