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Wilson County News April 11, 2012 | 1,788 views | 5 comments
FLORESVILLE -- The use of hydraulic fracturing -- often referred to as “fracking” -- as a means of extracting oil and natural gas from the Eagle Ford shale formation continues to increase. This has led to questions about whether the process is depleting South Texas’ groundwater supplies.
A group of officials and residents met in the Lauro G. De Leon III Floresville Event Center April 4, in an attempt to gain answers about the issue. The Texas Water Utilities Association (TWUA) Hot Wells Association sponsored the public forum.
Mike Mahoney, general manager of the Evergreen Underground Water Con-servation District, said that there have been discussions about declining water levels in all areas of the district -- not just those where fracking activity is taking place. Elton Johnson of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) said that the drought from August 2010 to July 2011 was Texas’ worst one-year drought in recorded history.
Increased water usage has been compounded by reservoir levels that were at unprecedented lows at the beginning of the year, Johnson said.
“Fracking is adding to this to a certain extent,” Mahoney said. “Frac water is a small percentage of the use.”
Fracking is a process used to extract oil and natural gas from shale rock formations deep underground. After the shale layer is bored and reinforced, 5 million gallons of a water-based solution are pumped into the well bore, causing small fractures in the shale that cause the oil and natural gas to escape through the well bore.
Within the Evergreen district, Mahoney said owners of private wells are allowed annually to pump 2 acre-feet (approximately 651,702.857 U.S. gallons) of water per acre of the property owned. Under Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code, the district can issue fines of up to $10,000 per day to those who exceed their allotments over a three-year period. Monitoring of usage, however, is largely done on an “honor system,” with oil and natural gas companies being checked against the amounts of water they are permitted to pump, Mahoney said.
“As of this point right now, we don’t have a problem with people exceeding their allotments,” he said.
Kenneth “Buck” Griffin, Poth’s public works director, said after the meeting that he would like to see stiffer regulations related to meters placed on wells, which would keep track of how much water is being pumped. His city currently has not noticed any abnormal decreases in water levels, he said.
But approximately 7 miles south of Poth in Falls City, the formerly free-flowing artesian wells that supplied the city stopped flowing in December. Jeremy Mandel, who works in that city’s public works department, said he also wants to know if fracking has contributed to the problem. Falls City has had to install a pump capable of being submerged 200 feet to help keep the water flowing.
Because of the size of the city’s water system, Mandel said the TCEQ requires a second pump -- one that can be submerged 1,000 to 1,200 feet. It currently is estimated that it will cost $150,000, which is nearly a third of Falls City’s annual budget, to install the new pump. Mandel is hoping that the city can secure grant funds to pay those costs.
Absent from the event, however, were representatives of energy companies currently exploring the Eagle Ford shale. Dave Wallace of the TWUA said representatives of EOG Resources, Pioneer Energy, and Marathon Oil were invited, but indicated that they would not attend. Wallace said he wanted them present so participants could find out more about their fracking methods and the amounts of water they use.
Some members of the audience, including Doris Ann Eckols of Kenedy, expressed concern about the chemicals used with the water in the fracking process. Eckols and her husband, Clyde, recalled Karnes County’s bygone uranium boom, which she blames for unsafe levels of arsenic found in a pond on their property. Clyde said he recently had to bury more than 1,800 bass that died from ingesting the carcinogen.
Doris Ann expressed outrage over organizations, such as the San Antonio River Authority and Evergreen, for their unwillingness to test private wells “until there is a problem.”
“There’s no preventatives,” she said after the meeting. “They’re reactive, not proactive. There’s not enough accountability; just do as you please and Katy bar the door!”
Your Opinions and Comments
Rabble Rouser Extraordinaire Adkins, TX April 12, 2012 12:28pm
The newguyntown clearly works for one of the fracking companies. Only blind people can not see that this is a horrible idea and is wrecking our water supplies, contaminating our environment and water and causing water levels ... More ›
The newguyntown clearly works for one of the fracking companies. Only blind people can not see that this is a horrible idea and is wrecking our water supplies, contaminating our environment and water and causing water levels to drop all over the place. People, there needs to be accountability. Why have the Attorney Generals of many states now put a hiatus on fracking due to the destruction and pollution of their water supplies? Huh? Wake up people before it is too late.
THERE'S PLENTY OF WATER, FRACKING ONLY USES A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF WATER, WE JUST DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH THEY USE THOUGH...the reason the oil companies did not attend is because right now they don't have to... plain and simple !!