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Helena residents protesting proposed site of disposal well
by Joe Baker
Mar 31, 2012 | 1346 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HELENA – A group of concerned residents is protesting the construction of a saltwater disposal well site near the intersection of State Highway 80 and Farm to Market Road 81 in Helena.

Several landowners that own property adjacent to the property which has been leased were sent letters letting them know that a company named Pyote Water Systems II, LLC had plans to drill a saltwater disposal well located about 200 feet southwest of the main intersection in Helena.

Mary Lozano, one of the people with land adjacent to the property where the well is proposed to be drilled, called a meeting which was attended by about 30 concerned residents who gathered outside Gil’s Country Store in Helena to discuss their options.

“It’s a huge concern for all of us,” Lozano said. “There are several factors. First of all, environmental. I think there are some new water wells which have been drilled in the past month.”

Lozano said that traffic is another concern.

“With what they are proposing to do, we guesstimated 100 to 150 trucks (per day) that would be rolling through here, trying to unload and dispose of – whatever it is they will dispose of here.”

“From the safety standpoint and the environmental standpoint, the fact that we live 100 to 200 yards from it... air quality, all that stuff is going to be affected by all that,” Lozano said. “We didn’t ever think it would be right here in our back yard, but here it is, literally, in our back yard.”

Cletus Bianchi, who also owns land adjacent to the site, explained that residents have a 15 day window to file a “one sentence” protest with the Texas Railroad Commission stating that they are opposed to a permit being issued for the purpose of a disposal well.

Many of the residents at the meeting signed the protest which was sent to the railroad commission within the 15-day timeframe.

Once the railroad commission has the protest in writing, a public hearing will likely be set for both sides to make their cases for or against the permit being issued. It is a process that can take four to six months to play out.

“I should go on the record right now,” Cletus Bianchi said. “I am a proponent of the oil and gas industry. I really don’t have a problem with injection wells, provided they are done correctly, but this is just not the right location. A mile in any direction, is fine.”

Bianchi said that if his neighbor had given him the opportunity, he would have bought the property from him to prevent him from leasing it for this purpose.

The total depth of the proposed well, as listed in the application to dispose of oil and waste by injection into a formation not productive of oil and gas, is 7,700 feet, with an injection interval of 5,900 to 7,500 feet.

The estimated average daily injection volume is listed at 15,000 barrels per day in the application.

On of the residents at the meeting said that he spoke with a representative of Pyote who told him that traffic safety would likely improve because the trucks will have to slow down behind trucks turning off the highway to unload their loads.

“I said, it doesn’t matter,” the man said, “you have still got a larger number of vehicles coming in here.”

The following is some information about the purposes such wells serve which was found at the railroad commission’s web site.

Oil and gas reservoirs are usually found in porous rocks, which also contain saltwater. This saltwater, which accompanies the oil and gas to the surface, can be disposed in two ways: 1) Returned by fluid injection into the reservoir where it originated for secondary or enhanced oil recovery; or 2) Injected into underground porous rock formations not productive of oil or gas, and sealed above and below by unbroken, impermeable strata. Saltwater disposal wells use this second method to manage saltwater.

Operators are responsible for disposing of produced water and frac fluid. Frac fluid is used to fracture and stimulate natural gas wells in certain areas of Texas, such as the Barnett Shale natural gas play near Fort Worth. Water or frac fluid is used to fracture tight shale to release gas trapped in the shale.

Operators are required to follow the Railroad Commission disposal regulations administered by the agency’s Technical Permitting Section-Underground Injection Control Program. Underground Injection Control is a program that is federally delegated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Texas, and it follows national guidelines under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act for surface and groundwater protection. EPA awarded the Railroad Commission “primary enforcement responsibility” over oil and gas injection and disposal wells on April 23, 1982.

According to information at the railroad commission’s web site, 78 percent of these types of permits are approved.

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