Texas Residents Allege Drinking Water Contaminated with Drilling Fluid

Four Texas residents and the Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association claim companies who pumped 36,000 gallons of drilling fluid, allegedly containing seven probable human carcinogens, into a Texas aquifer are in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Permian Highway Pipeline LLC and Kinder Morgan Texas Pipeline LLC, the defendants, allegedly made “serious errors” while drilling under the Blanco River and released AMC Gel into the aquifer which contaminated the residents’ home water wells 1.5 miles away and public water supplies in the area for 10,000 people.

“There is no safe level of exposure to human carcinogens,” the complaint stated. According to the complaint, the gel contains Acrylamide and Silica, both classified as Class 1 human carcinogens, and “numerous undisclosed noxious metals.”

The residents, represented by Blackburn Carter and The Mundy Firm, claimed their wells contain cloudy water months after the injection. They said the defendants have left the plume in the aquifer and have not made an effort to clean the local water.

The defendants were allegedly attempting to drill under the river using horizontal directional drilling at two locations as part of a project to install a natural gas transmission pipeline. The location of the discharge is on a stretch of the Blanco River where water drains into the aquifer. The plaintiffs claim there is not an “impervious ‘bottom’” of the river at the location.

According to the petition, the defendants said in a report after the event, “Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) experienced an underground drilling fluid loss during construction in Blanco County, Texas. The drilling fluid is comprised of bentonite clay and water. Bentonite is a naturally occurring, non-hazardous, non-toxic clay. We strive for zero incidents and minimal operations have been suspended while the team evaluates the cause of the loss and determines the best path forward.  We are working with affected landowners to address their needs.  We are also consulting with our karst expert and the local water district manager to determine the best way to mitigate any current and future impacts. All of the appropriate regulatory agencies have been notified.”

The residents claimed the companies were concealing the truth about the substance released into the aquifer in their statement and that it is actually AMC gel. They cited that the defendants have altered their methods and are now using “‘dry’ boring methods” in the area.

The plaintiffs asked for the court for injunctive relief and to impose the maximum penalty of $57,317 for each day the Safe Drinking Water Act is violated. They also ask for damages based on their reduced property value, damages to their water estate, and damages for discomfort or annoyance.