Some of these workers are simply emptying their cargo of contaminated water onto the roadsides, usually in the dark hours between midnight and 5 a.m. according to Neil M. Bowie, director of the Clear Creek Watershed Authority.

CCWA is a regional state agency that is responsible for the surface water in Denton, Cooke, Montague and a small piece of Wise County.

The watershed authority operates 70 flood control dams built by the federal government and is responsible for the surface water in Cooke County and surrounding counties.

Bowie said he and other members of the watershed authority first became aware of the problem of contaminated water dumping when land owners and livestock producers began calling him complaining that the waste water is polluting their surface water.

The chloride-contaminated water could potentially poison livestock and kill crops, Bowie said.

Bowie has photos of five sites on FM 677 between Forestburg and St. Jo where illegal dumping took place sometime in April.

“All vegetation in the path of the dumped fluid was killed, including all grass, shrubs and trees,” Bowie said of the photos. “The contaminated water is being washed by rain into the surface waters of the Clear Creek watershed, and ultimately into the Elm Fork of the Trinity River and Lake Lewisville, Dallas’ primary drinking water supply.”

The waste haulers are supposed to remove the chloride-laden water and take it to an approved disposal site — typically an abandoned well. These approved sites are regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission.

In Texas, most environmental laws are enforced by The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). But the commission transferred responsibility for enforcing oil and gas drilling and production activity to the railroad commission under a memorandum of understanding.

Bowie said drillers must use an enormous amount of water when drilling wells. He estimates that it typically takes 2.5 million gallons of water to drill through the various layers of sediment in the earth and reach oil.

Oil well drillers must obtain this water in order to drill. The water often comes from ponds and lakes on the property. When there isn’t enough water on the surface, drillers look below the ground to get their water.

Then, the water that is used in this process becomes contaminated by chlorides and must be taken back out of the earth and hauled away by waste haulers.

But no one regulates the waste haulers, Bowie explained.

The railroad commission does not require proof of delivery from operators for their waste shipments. That means no one is certain whether the water taken from the drilling site is actually being delivered to approved dumping areas. The water could end up anywhere. Sometimes it is dumped illegally on the side of the road as it has been in Montague County.

Bowie said he fears that as the number of oil wells drilled in Cooke County increases, illegal dumping of waste water from these new wells will become a problem in our area.

Bowie said he contacted an official at the Railroad Commission office in Wichita Falls and was told the railroad commission is only responsible for what happens on the mineral lease site. According to Bowie, the railroad commission says the dumping is occurring offsite, outside their jurisdiction.

According to Bowie, The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality admits it may have jurisdiction over the matter but says it has no funds for investigating or regulating water dumping activity.

The watershed authority is concerned enough about the threat to county surface water to offer a $10,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of waste haulers who dump water illegally. Bowie said his office is currently working with an environmental law firm in Austin on prosecutorial details.

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