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Oil well drilling fluid flows through neighborhood

Posted at 7:31 PM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 15:20:39-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — While arriving home from work Wednesday afternoon, Alan Flores was surprised to see some kind of liquid flowing in the bar ditch in front of his house on Nueces County Road 73A just outside of Calallen.

“We hadn’t had rain in two or three days, so I wondered, 'Where is all this coming from?" Flores said. "And the color was unusual. That’s what got me."

Flores tracked the liquid about a quarter of a mile up the street to a property where a Houston-based company drilled for oil last month. He then called the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality concerned that the liquid could be dangerous.

“We’re just being taken advantage of because the drilling company said they were going to take care of the community," he said while motioning to the bar ditch that still contained some of the liquid Thursday. "This isn’t taking care of the community."

Rather than TCEQ, the Texas Railroad Commission says it's the agency that investigated the drilling fluid release Thursday and will continue to monitor the cleanup process.

"The Railroad Commission will inspect the work to ensure public safety and the environment has been safeguarded," spokesperson Andrew Keese said in an email.

The drilling company says the liquid is mostly rainwater but does include some drilling fluids used for lubrication, among other purposes. Tag Operating Company, Inc. says that fluid is not harmful -- rather beneficial.

“They’re very desirable for agricultural purposes," Tag Principal Ted Snyder said. "Many landowners are very happy to have that on their soil."

Snyder says the owner of the drill site and the Texas Railroad Commission approved releasing the drilling fluid on the property for that very purpose.

But there was a problem.

“What we hadn’t really calculated, with the heavy rains that we had last week, the ground was quite saturated," Snyder said. "As a result — rather than soaking into the soil as we anticipated that it would do — it ran off.”

Snyder apologized for the miscalculation and reiterated to concerned residents that the drilling fluid isn't dangerous.

Flores remains convinced there will be a negative impact.

"Regardless of whether this (drilling fluid) is good for the environment or not, it shouldn’t end up going into the ditch which eventually goes into the Nueces River," Flores said.