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submitted by the Mon-
tague County Property
Owners Association
The Montague County
Property Owners Asso-
ciation (MCPOA) is very
concerned about the great
number of injection wells
in Montague County.
Much of the informa-
tion which follows comes
from an article, “Injec-
tion Wells: The poison
beneath us” published by
ProPublica News.
Many of the i r ex-
amples hit very close to
home said Robert McKee,
association president.
Over the past several
decades U.S. Industries
have injected more than
30 trillion gallons of tox-
ic liquid deep into the
earth. Until recently
scientists and environ-
mental officials assumed
that deep layers of rock
beneath the earth would
safely entomb the waste.
There are growing signs
they were mistaken.
There are more than
680,000 waste and injec-
tion wells nationwide,
more than 150,000 of
which shoot industrial
fluids thousands of feet
below the surface. Sci-
entists and federal regu-
lators acknowledge they
do not know howmany of
the sites are leaking.
Some say the dangers
of waste contaminating
our water supplies are
minimal . Other dis-
“In 10 to 100 years we
are going to find out that
most of our groundwater
is polluted,” said Ma-
rio Salazar, an engineer
who worked for 25 years
as a technical expert
with the Environmen-
tal Protection Agency’s
underground injection
program. “A lot of people
are going to get sick and a
lot of people will die.”
“There is no certainty
at all in any of this and
whoever tells you the op-
posite is not telling you
the truth,” said Stefan
Finsterle, a leading hy-
drologist, at Lawrence
Berkeley National Labo-
ratory who specializes in
understanding the prop-
erties of rock layer.
“You have changed the
systemwith pressure and
temperature and fractur-
ing, so you don’t know
how it will behave.”
ProPublica reviewed
the histories of more than
220,000 well inspections
and found structural fail-
ures inside injection wells
are routine.
From 2007 to 2010
they found one well integ-
rity violation was issued
for every six deep injec-
tion wells.
The EPA, which has
primary regulation au-
thority over the nation’s
injection wells, would
not discuss specific well
failures identified by Por-
Publica or make staffers
available for interviews.
A statement from the
EPA was as follows: “Un-
derground injection has
been and continues to
be a viable technique for
subsurface storage and
disposal of fluids when
properly done.”
Further, “EPA recog-
nizes that more can be
done to enhance drinking
water safeguards and
along with states and
ribes will work to im-
prove the efficiency of the
underground injection
control program.”
Now you folks in Bow-
ie and other small towns
who don’t get your water
from wells, think about
your lakes. Have you
looked at Amon Carter
Lake’s level lately?
If your lake goes dry as
is happening in Wichita
Falls, you or your town
may have to drill water
wells. This water may
not be there, as some
people north of Bowie
on FM 1816 have found
as their water is disap-
pearing as more water is
being used for the energy
If you think that all
this only applies to other
people far away, consider
this: In September 2003,
Ed Cowley got a call to
check out a pool of briny
water in a bucolic farm
field outside Chico.
Nearby, he said a
stand of trees had begun
to wither, their leaves
turning crispy brown and
falling to the ground. A
short distance away from
the murky pond, an oil
service company had be-
gun pumping millions of
gallons of drilling waste
into an injection well.
Regulators refer to
such waste as salt wa-
ter or brine, but it of-
ten includes less benign
contaminates, includ-
ing fracking chemicals,
Benzene and other sub-
Before issuing the per-
mit (for the Cisco well)
Railroad Commission of
Texas officials studied
mathematical models
showing that waste could
be safely injected into a
sandstone layer about
one third of a mile be-
neath the farm (that’s
1,760 feet).
They specified how
much waste could go into
the well, under howmuch
pressure and calculated
how far it would dissipate
As federal law re-
quires, they also reviewed
a one-quarter mile radius
around the site to make
sure waste would not
seep back toward the sur-
face through abandoned
wells or other holes.
Yet the precautions
Saltwater brine mi-
grated from the injection
site and shot back to the
surface through three old
well holes nearby.
Despi te res idents ’
fears the injected waste
could be making its way
toward their drinking
water, RRC officials did
not sample soil or water
near the leak.
“If the injection well
waste had threatened
harm to the groundwater
in the area, an in-depth
RRC investigation would
have been initiated,” Ra-
monna Nye, RRC pub-
lic information officer,
wrote in an email.
After the breach, the
RRC ordered two of the
old wells to be plugged
with cement and restrict-
ed the rate at whichwaste
could be injected into the
well. It did not issue any
violations against the dis-
posal company which had
followed the RRC rules,
regulators said.
The commission al-
lowed the well opera-
tor to continue injecting
thousands of barrels of
brine into the well each
day. A few months later,
brine began spurting out
of three more nearby old
Are we counting on the
RRC to protect our water
“It is assumed that
the monitoring rules
and requirements are in
place and are protective
– that’s assumed,” said
Gregory Oberley, an EPA
groundwater specialist
who studies injection and
water issues in the Rocky
Mountain Region.
“You’re not going to
know what’s going on
until someone’s well is
contaminated and they
are complaining about
Most injection wells
in our area are class two
wells. In Texas, one vio-
lation was issued for ev-
ery three class two wells
examined in 2010. The
EPA requires that class
one and class two wells be
drilled the deepest.
There seems to be no
clear definition of deep-
est. Is it 1,000 feet or
20,000 feet? Why is this
In our area the Trin-
ity Aquifer is about 300
feet to 600 feet below the
surface and is considered
by most to contain the
best quality water in our
It is where most of the
water used for fracking
comes from, resulting in
many rural water well
levels seeing significant
drops. The closer an
injection well deposits
bad waste to this aquifer,
the more likely it will be
On May 17, 2014,
Clearfork Production
LLC of Fort Worth ap-
plied for a permit from
the RRC to inject salt wa-
ter and other oil and gas
waste into a well located
five miles southwest of
Montague to a depth of
1,305 ft. to 1,424 ft. on
the Hildreth, Jack-A-(0)
Leases, Well Number 1.
Objections were made
from a group of concerned
citizens as well as the
MCPOA. The RRC has
determined the permit
application to be admin-
istratively complete.
The state staff went
on to say, “we have re-
ceived protests to the
referenced application
and are unable to ap-
prove the application
Our question is, would
the RRC have rubber
stamped this application
if concerned citizens had
not objected. This well is
ongoing in that Clearfork
Production has now ap-
plied for a permit for an
injection well in the same
field with a depth of 6,030
feet to 6,250 feet.
How does bad water
find its way back up to
our drinking water?
There are upwards of
two million abandoned or
plugged oil and gas wells
in the U.S., more than
100,000 of which may
not appear in regulators
records. Sometimes they
are just broken off tubes
of steel, buried or sticking
out of the ground.
Many are supposed
to be sealed with ce-
ment, but cement breaks
down over time, allow-
ing seepage into the well
structure. If the injected
waste reaches the bot-
tom of an old well, it can
quickly be driven back
toward aquifers as it was
in Chico.
The whole premise
that waste water inject-
ed into deep wells will
not find its way back to
the surface or fresh wa-
ter aquifers because of
the many stratus layers
which lie in between loses
all validity when one con-
siders how many holes
(wells) have punched
through this strata and
how many cracks have
made due to fracking.
Earthquakes can also
cause cracks in rock stra-
ta allowing waste to seep
upward. Dr. Zac Hilden-
brand of the University
of Texas at Arlington re-
cently commented, while
testing the water quality
in our area, “fracking
may not be as harmful to
rock strata as injecting
waste water under pres-
sure into the earth.”
In 1989, the Govern-
ment Accounting Office
(GAO) reported 23 more
cases in seven states
where oil and gas injec-
tion wells had failed and
polluted aquifers, not-
ing four more suspected
The GAO concluded
that most of the contami-
nated aquifers could not
be reclaimed because
fixing the damage was
too costly or technically
If the Trinity Aqui-
fer, which runs from the
Red River all the way
down to northern tip of
Bexar County and west
to Bandera County, were
to be contaminated, how
do you suppose the ru-
ral inhabitants will sur-
vive? This would not help
small-town economics, if
all the rural people went
So, whatever hap-
pened in the Cisco Injec-
tion well case? Well, the
RRC concluded that the
Cisco injection well had
The commission set
new limits on how fast
the waste could be in-
jected, but did not forbid
further disposal. The
well remains in use to
this day.
In late 2008, samples
of Chico ’ s municipal
drinking water were
found to contain radium,
a radioactive derivative
of uranium and a com-
mon attribute of drilling
Since then, Publ ic
Works Director Ed Cow-
ley, said commission of-
ficials have continued
to assure him that brine
won’t reach Chico’s drink-
ing water.
But since the agency
keeps allowing more in-
jection wells and doesn’t
track the cumulative vol-
ume of waste going into
the wells in the area, he’s
skeptical they can keep
that promise.
So, who’s looking after
the folks? It doesn’t look
like the GAO or EPA can
do anything. It doesn’t
look like the Texas Rail-
road Commission wants
to do anything.
It doesn’t look like the
Upper Trinity Ground-
water District can do
anything until the Trin-
ity Aquifer is declared
a critical aquifer. They
have not tried to do this
to our knowledge.
In short, if people don’t
look after themselves,
nobody else will. It’s time
to get involved.
Write to your politi-
cal representatives and
tell them if they don’t do
something you won’t vote
for them and you don’t
care about their party
affiliations. Join some
groups who are trying to
do something.
Finally, the agency
which controls most of
what we have been talk-
ing about is the Railroad
Commission of Texas.
Now we need to vote
for someone else sim-
ply because these people
seem more interested
in the oil/gas companies
than they are in the peo-
ple who need the ground-
And don’t forget the
Upper Trinity Ground-
water District. Talk to a
county commissioner and
county judge. Ask them
to put pressure on those
people, in your behalf.
If we stand together,
we can do something to
make Montague County
and surrounding areas a
good place to live for our-
selves and our children
in years to come. Once
we have lost it, it won’t
come back.
Opinions expressed
in this article represent
those of the MCPOA and
not The Bowie News.
• 15
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
wells? When were the wells drilled? Did they meet
state regulatory requirements? All of this information
would have a direct bearing on Dr. Hildenbrand’s as-
sumption that “drilling does affect the water.”
Groundwater contamination more likely comes
from agriculture use or gas migration from shallow
formations with naturally occurring methane.
These causes are much closer to groundwater
sources that are generally 50 to 200 feet deep than
they are to natural gas wells that are 5,000 to 8,000
feet deep.
The study itself alludes to this: “Arsenic, strontium,
and barium all showed significant negative correla-
tions with the depth of private water wells. This could
be due to contact with surface sources as the highest
concentrations of arsenic and other compounds occur
at the shallowest depths of private water wells.”
The study did not detect any salt water in the
contaminated wells, which would be present if the
contamination came from a natural gas well.
Alex Mills is president of the Texas Alliance of
Energy Producers. The opinions expressed are solely
of the author.
Are all those injection wells safe in Texas?
Continued From Page 14