Concerns about abandoned oil wells contaminating groundwater in Texas are not new, but a boom in oil and gas drilling and increased use of the hydraulic fracturing process have raised the odds of contamination occurring. In addition to groundwater contamination, abandoned wells can provide a pathway for dangerous contaminates to reach the surface, polluting the land. Contaminated water and land puts lives at risk.
Thousands of Unplugged Abandoned Oil Wells in Texas
The Texas Tribune recently published an article, In Texas, Abandoned Oil Equipment Spurs Pollution Fearshighlighting the dangers of abandoned wells left unplugged. According to the article, picked up by the New York Times, tens of thousands of abandoned wells were plugged in a cleanup effort the last few decades, but as of late April, about 8,400 unplugged wells remained.
The Railroad Commission of Texas, regulators of oil and gas drilling, acknowledged that they don’t know where all abandoned wells are located. Some wells dating back to the 1920s and 30s and can be difficult, if not impossible, to locate.
Although instances of contaminates bumbling up from abandoned wells in Texas occur, the state says it does not have a list of the occurrences.
Oil & Gas Drilling, Fracking Increases Contamination Risk
With the oil and gas boom, made possible by the use of hydraulic fracturing, the risk of contaminates rising from abandoned wells is growing. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a controversial process in which millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped at a high pressure underground to break apart rock layers and release oil and gas. A lot of the water pumped in comes back up, along with the chemicals and additional underground water. This wastewater is injected into underground disposal wells.
With the increase in fracking, hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater is being disposed of each month in Texas. As the wastewater is injected underground, it is possible for it to shoot into one or more abandoned wells nearby.
In addition to greatly increasing the number of underground disposal wells, fracking causes changes in the earth’s geology. Breaking open the earth leaves manmade fissures that can connect with injected waste sites and abandoned wells. How far they go is debated.
Legal Help for Groundwater and Land Contamination Victims
If you believe oil and gas drilling or an abandoned well is contaminating your groundwater or land, talk to an experienced attorney now. The Callahan Law Firm handles environmental claims, including land and groundwater contamination, on a contingency fee basis. Contact us now for a free case evaluation.