An 18-wheeler lost its load of what is known as “flowback” waste along the Karnes County highways and roads in the early morning hours of March 10.
Flowback is a water based solution that flows back to the surface during and after the completion of hydraulic fracturing. The fluid contains clays, chemical additives, dissolved metal ions and total dissolved solids (TDS). Flowback and produced water are considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of safely. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, produced waters are typically disposed of in deep wells or “non-potable coastal waters.” Flowback and produced water can contain salt, industrial chemicals, hydrocarbons, and radioactive materials.
The spill affected three miles of FM 81 and six miles of FM 1144, forcing the closure of of highways and roads for two days while TxDOT road crews undertook the clean-up work.
On Point Services, L.L.C., of Falfurrias was investigated by TCEQ to determine compliance with applicable requirements for spill control and prevention.
In the report, referred to as a “notice of enforcement” addressed to Winfred Stanfield, manager of On Point Services, the investigator alleges that the company violated a section of the Texas Administrative Code by failing to immediately abate and contain and take reasonable response actions for the spill of 128 barrels of flowback fluids.
The report says the driver of the truck, William Frizzell, on the morning of March 10, filled his truck three times with flowback fluids from the Marathon Oil well site near the intersection of County Road 217 and FM 81.
Field tickets showed that the three loads were delivered to a saltwater disposal facility, however, a review of electronic disposal logs maintained by the disposal facility indicated that the third ticket was entered manually and no actual disposal activity occurred for the third load.
Frizzell told Karnes County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Robert Ebrom that he loaded 20 to 30 barrels of flowback fluids from the well site and the pressure release valve on the transport trailer was not closing completely at all times.
He said he left the well site at about 4 a.m. and traveled the route where the spill began and ended, and then continued to a truck wash on County Road 199.
A record from the Falls City Truck Wash for the wash activity reflected that the transport was empty upon arrival, indicative that a release had occurred, the report said.
“To date the RP (responsible party) has not taken any response actions towards addressing this discharge,” the report continued.
The report recommends corrective action by requesting On Point Services to submit a written description along with necessary and appropriate documentation of the corrective actions taken to address the prevention of releases and the implementation of required response actions.
The company also allegedly violated Texas Administrative Code by discharging industrial waste that will cause pollution of the water in the state as a result of the spill.
Corrective action recommended in the report includes a request that the company immediately cease the discharge of industrial waste or other waste into the waters of the state and take substantial actions to abate and remediate the release. The company is further requested to undertake equipment maintenance, implement personnel training programs and adopt plans, procedures and policies to prevent other such discharge occurrences.
A third violation is alleged in the report related to failure to notify TCEQ after the spill occurred.
The report claims that the company failed to report in a timely manner the 128-barrel spill.
Corrective action recommended includes a request for the company to develop and submit written correspondence describing the required notification process for spills that will be followed by facility personnel and affirm that this process will be incorporated into the emergency response plan for the facility and personnel training.
The letter from TCEQ to the company advised them that the Legislature has granted enforcement powers to the TCEQ to carry out its mission to protect human health and the environment.
“Due to the apparent seriousness of the alleged violations, formal enforcement action has been initiated, and additional violations may be cited upon further review,” the letter stated. “We encourage you to immediately begin taking actions to address the outstanding alleged violations.”