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UPDATE: Four SWD wells shut-in as effort to stop saltwater purge

September 24, 2019 - 17:25
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    BUBBLING POOL continues northwest of Omega, where saltwater is surfacing from an unidentified underground source. [Times & Free Press Staff Photo]

Three entities operating four saltwater disposal wells northwest of Kingfisher have agreed to shut in all four wells for at least 30 days to see if a saltwater spring bubbling up on private property can be stopped, an Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesperson told the Times and Free Press late Tuesday afternoon.

“They'll remain shut-in for 30 days and then we’ll re-evaluate and determine what the next steps will be,” Matt Skinner said.

The saltwater purge, so named because the water is coming up from underground as opposed to an aboveground spill, is percolating to the surface at the rate of 68 barrels a day. It was reported by landowners northwest of Omega, just west of the Blaine County line, after they noticed trees dying along the opposite roadside and then discovered a soft spot in their field during harvest.

Skinner said Tuesday that due to the pressure of the purge, the saltwater may continue to surface for at least another two weeks, even if one of the shut-in wells is determined to be the source.

The OCC has dug a trench to route the water from the field where it is surfacing to the borrow ditch, where it is hauled away via truck.

Skinner said the location of the saltwater appears to be well below the water table and data so far shows no contamination of drinking water, although samples will continue to be taken regularly until the situation is alleviated.

The purge is located about 50 yards south of the intersection of NS Road 2690 and EW 800.

Devon Energy voluntarily plugged in three vertical oil wells in closest proximity to the purge, but that had no impact on the volume of water coming to the surface, Skinner said.

An outside consultant continues to analyze data and an OCC staff member has been on scene on a daily basis, Skinner said. The pollution abatement director also is involved in monitoring the situation.

Once the purge is stopped, the next step is cleanup, which can involve removal and replacement of the impacted soil, if it can't otherwise be returned to its original state.

“Who pays for that depends on who we find is the responsible party, but the corporation commission is required to make sure that cleanup happens,” Skinner said.