Texas: Oil and Natural Gas Industry Negatively Affecting the State

Producing 43% of the nation’s crude oil and 25% of its natural gas, Texas’s economy is heavily reliant on this industry. Additionally, it aids our overall domestic economy and helps safeguard our national energy security. 

Although it is undeniable how crucial this industry is, it comes at a hefty cost to Texas and other areas where oil and gas extraction occurs. Each year, there are an average of 1,000 produced water spills in Texas alone. These spills have a profound and negative impact on the land, groundwater, and animals. In turn, the residents of the areas where produced water spills are common are at risk of exposure to dangerous toxins for years to come. 

T-Bar Ranch: Two Decades of Clean-Up Illustrate the Impact Produced Water Spills Have 

One example of the long-term negative effects negligence in this industry can have is that of T-Bar Ranch. Nearly 20 years ago, water contamination was discovered in the T-Bar Ranch well, which was purchased by the city of Midland as a source of drinking water. 

According to Inside Climate News, “The city found elevated levels of chlorides and total dissolved solids in several wells at the ranch, signs of produced water, and eventually sued the oil and gas company Heritage Standard Corporation for leaking produced water at its storage tanks and waste ponds, causing it to leach into the groundwater.”

This is a result of a produced water spill that went unaddressed. After 20 years of efforts and a multi-million dollar remediation project, they are working towards a resolution for this one spill. However, this is not always the case, and many spills go unreported. 

Dangers of Produced Water Spills 

When drilling for oil and gas, proprietary chemicals are used in combination with sand and water. Produced water is the waste that resurfaces. This not only includes the drilling liquids but also groundwater that may contain arsenic and benzene. 

Crude oils and refined petroleum products are composed of hydrocarbons and other organic and inorganic substances, including atoms of sulfur, nitrogen, and oxygen, as well as metals such as iron, vanadium, nickel, and chromium. Gasoline contains benzene, a known carcinogen for humans. It also contains hexane, which can negatively impact the nervous system. 

Allowing produced water to enter groundwater that ultimately finds its way into drinking water sources is detrimental to both humans and animals.

Because of the high salinity of produced water, it also wreaks havoc on soil and can render land barren.  

There are several other examples of the dangers of produced water spills. Two of them are those in West Virginia and North Dakota. In West Virginia, sediments with high levels of radium and less diverse microbial communities were discovered downstream from a produced water disposal facility.  In North Dakota, lithium, boron, and strontium were found downstream from a produced water spill. These are just two examples of why produced water is so dangerous, and these spills need to be addressed. 

Texas Government Must Take Action

While Texas is more largely impacted by produced water spills because of the prevalence of the oil industry, any community where produced water is present can be subject to experiencing the negative effects. 

In Texas, companies are not required to notify landowners when a spill takes place, nor is there a public database to research where produced water spills have taken place. Because of this, citizens do not know whether their water source is in jeopardy, leaving them vulnerable to consuming unsafe water. 

To put citizens’ minds at ease, the Texas Railroad Commission has come forward, stating that not all produced water spills are dangerous and assuring residents that spills that threaten groundwater are investigated. 

If you have specific concerns with your water, it is always best to test your water and then find the filtration system that will address your individual water’s concerns. One of our customer service representatives is always available to answer your questions, whether it is in the pre-purchasing phase when you have product-related questions and are searching for the best water filtration system for your needs or in the post-purchase phase when you have questions about installation or maintenance.