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Gas driller fined for spill

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Williams Production received a citation and fine from the Town of Flower Mound after failing to report a spill of flowback water in a timely manner.

The spill occurred at approximately 2:30 a.m. on March 17 at the Cummings C-West gas well pad site, located southeast of Red Rock and Hawk, north of FM 1171. Williams officials notified the town of the accident approximately eight hours later.

According to the town’s ordinances, “operators shall immediately notify the oil and gas inspector and Fire Marshal of any incident.”

In media reports related to the incident, an official with the town said that the incident “did not meet the town’s hazardous material team’s response levels because there was no immediate life, property or environmental hazard that would have necessitated response.”

Williams estimated that approximately 3,000 gallons of flowback water containing fracturing fluid and associated additives leaked from a tank that had a bad seal.

Flowback water is the very first water that a well produces when it starts to produce natural gas. Contractors were temporarily storing the water in frac tanks at the drill site, company officials said.

According to Williams’ blog, 80 percent of the water was recovered and the remainder soaked into the soil.

“Our environmental contractor delineated this impacted soil. A backhoe then excavated it for removal and it was replaced with fresh dirt. Ultimately, no surface water was impacted, no public property was affected, the environment was protected and we properly resolved the situation in the eyes of the person who owns the land (one of our leaseholders),” read a statement on the company’s blog.

It went on to say, “We accept the citation and intend to pay a fine next week once the Town Court assesses a final amount. The maximum allowable fine for not providing an immediate notification is $2,000. Going forward, our main priority is to prevent situations like the spill from occurring. We have reviewed processes and procedures, reinforced our standards with contractors and discussed ways to improve equipment inspections and response time.”

Ladd Biro, a Flower Mound resident who opposes urban gas exploration, criticized the company’s handling of the accident in light of the fact that Williams is seeking more drilling sites in populated areas of town.

“Only in Flower Mound can Williams get caught red-handed trying to cover-up a 3,000-gallon toxic flowback water spill one day, then get variances to drill too close to watersheds the next,” said Biro.

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