Polluted Water Fuels a Battle for Answers

Polluted Water Fuels a Battle for Answers by Abrahm Lustgarten, June 21, 2012, ProPublica
“Our cries, they just fall on deaf ears,” Hudson said. Shortly after moving to DeBerry, Hudson sent water from his well and four of his neighbors’ to be tested for pollutants. The results showed high levels of chlorides, chemicals found in drilling waste, a federal report said. According to the report, Hudson shared the tests with Basic Energy Services, the company that operated the waste wells nearby, which sent them to the Railroad Commission of Texas, the agency that regulates disposal wells for oil and gas drilling waste. Nearly a year after receiving the material, commission officials tested DeBerry’s water themselves, confirming that it contained arsenic, cadmium, lead, benzene and other substances. The contamination was extensive enough that they advised DeBerry residents not to drink their water, leaving Hudson and others to purchase bottled water. … To Hudson and others, there were powerful clues in the commission’s own records, which showed that one of the injection wells had a history of problems.

In 2000, a Louisiana trucking company illegally dumped thousands of gallons of hazardous waste from an oil refinery into it, material far more dangerous than the well was allowed to accept under government regulations. Five years later, a mechanical integrity test detected a crack in the well structure that allowed waste to leak. … According to a 2007 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general, the Railroad Commission had a difficult time getting Basic Energy to cooperate. The agency ordered the company to drill additional deep disposal wells to monitor DeBerry’s water, but the company refused. … “Commission staff address all water well complaints promptly and base their decisions on science and fact.” Unsatisfied with the state’s progress, federal EPA officials took over the investigation in 2005 under the Superfund program, ordering more water sampling around the injection wells. For the first time, a decade after the saga began, the EPA also began supplying bottled water to DeBerry residents. By 2007, however, the EPA also concluded that injection wells played no part in DeBerry’s water contamination. … “We will always have a problem proving the contaminants are coming from injection wells. You’d have to have a camera underneath the ground somewhere,” Hudson said. “Even if they find oil and gas carcinogens in the water, they are going to find another way to say it came from somewhere else. Nobody wants to say what the cause was.” [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:  Texas Lawsuit Includes a Mix of Race and Water ]

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