On Thursday, a report released by the environmental nonprofit group, Earthworks, revived concerns regarding oil and gas production around Balmorhea State Park in West Texas. According to the report, production threatens to contaminate the springs that flow into the park’s famed swimming pool.
Residents of Balmorhea and visitors to the park have expressed worry regarding the drilling in the area ever since Houston-based Apache Corp. started drilling test wells and leasing mineral rights throughout the last year. As a result, various environmental groups have started to keep a closer eye on the hotspot.
The most active group in the small town of Balmorhea has been Earthworks. The nonprofit group, based out of Washington D.C., announced two weeks ago that it had ordered an analysis by Tom Myers, a hydrologist that regularly collaborates with the organization. On Thursday, Myers’ report was finally released and outlined numerous potential threats to the springs.
“These risks are not quantifiable,” said Myers in the report, “but the probability that contamination will occur is significant.”
In the report, Myers said that drilling fluids could possibly leak through underground pathways into the aquifer and that oil or gas could bleed out of well holes. Myers wrote that above-ground waste water storage ponds could ooze through topsoil and into waterways. He also wrote that groundwater pumping done for fracking could consume too much water and diminish the spring’s flow. Finally, Myers reported that the hydraulic fracturing that propels water into wells at extreme pressures to break through shale and release oil or gas can shift rocks into positions that could block the aquifer.
As a result of his findings, Myers proposed a program that focuses on water monitoring. A moratorium on drilling permits in the area was requested by Earthworks “until a complete environmental impact analysis can be done.” Earthworks’ gulf area organizer, Sharon Wilson said simply, “There’s too much at stake.”
On Thursday afternoon, Apache said it would review the report “for accuracy and content.” In an email, Castlen Kennedy, spokesperson for Apache wrote, “It is disappointing that Earthworks and their allies continue to pursue tactics aimed at undermining the spirit of collaboration and transparency that Apache has emphasized from the beginning,” Kennedy continued, “Our company has a clear track record of working with organizations across the spectrum on environmental concerns, and we see the value in fostering an open dialogue.”
Many of the concerns brought up in Myers’ report have been expressed before. In the past, Apache Corp. has replied to several. Currently, Apache is in search of alternate sources of water to use for fracking so that it doesn’t have to rely on using spring water. The company has said it can avoid leaks by meticulously and cautiously drilling and cementing wells.
Last month, Apache announced an “unprecedented” partnership with the University of Texas at Arlington, conducting a groundwater monitoring study together.
Worried Balmorhea residents and Earthworks have arranged a conference for Saturday at 3pm at the Balmorhea Community Center. There, the group hopes to talk about the developments and hear from four different speakers including reps from Earthworks and UT hydrogeologist, Jack Sharp.