Water Pollution Control `Inadequate' / from Oilpatch, Says Wallace

Article excerpt

The control of pollution from Oklahoma's oilpatch is inadequate, according to the water resources director for the Associatio n of Central Oklahoma Governments.

Testifying before the state senate committe investigating the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, Gregory Wallace warned that the biggest threat to the state's fresh water is from abandoned or unplugged wells.

The commission recently adopted a rule that allows wells to remain unplugged "almost indefinitely," he said.

To protect Oklahoma's fresh water, Wallace recommended:

- Establishing a pollution abatement division that is not directly responsible to the commission.

- Strengthening enforcement of pollution laws by assigning at least one inspector to each county in the state.

Wallace also recommended that individuals or cities whose water has been polluted take the case into civil or criminal courts instead of through the corporation commission.

"Seventy-four percent of Corporation Commission pollution complaints have been closed with no apparent reason," Wallace said. "Only 5 percent of those remaining have come to a hearing."

The cost of cleaning up a single instance of oilfield pollution can be $2 million to $3 million, Wallace said.

Of over 15,000 wells drilled through the Garber Wellington Aquifer, central Oklahoma's ground water supply, 1,665 have been improperly plugged, he said.

Injection wells are the most economical and feasible method of disposing of salt water from wells, Wallace said, if done properly.

However, a study of 500 such wells has shown that more than a third of them failed, he said.

Maps showing the depths of fresh ground water are grossly inadequate, he said. …