By Jeff Shultz
Benny Montgomery, Pauls Valley, can step out on his back porch and toss a stone right onto the site where a proposed saltwater disposal well could be located.
If CAVU Resources is granted a permit to construct the disposal well, it will literally be just feet away from Montgomery’s back yard.
Montgomery, like so many of his neighbors in the rural area east of Pauls Vally, is worried about the many problems the proposed injection site will cause if it goes in.
And despite the many assurances CAVU’s President and CEO William Robinson has given them on the safety of the disposal well, Montgomery and others don’t believe it.
“I think he’s painting a pretty picture that’s just not there,” Montgomery told the News Star.
The number of objections to the proposed disposal well reads like a dirty laundry list and is just about as long.
“There’s nothing good that’s going come out of this,” said Joe Menefee, a Garvin County farmer. “It won’t be good for the county, for the landowners or anyone living around this area.”
Menefee has been circulating a petition over the past few days protesting the proposed disposal well.
As of Tuesday he said he has gathered over 1,000 signatures and will be delivering the petitions to the Corporation Commission later this week.
That number, according to Menefee is a Corporation Commission record.
“I was told the most protests the Corporation Commission has ever received on a project was 47 complaints,” he said.
According to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, once the protest period is over, the matter will be heard by an OCC judge who will then advise the OCC who will make the final decision of CAVU’s permit.
The decision, no matter what side it is on, can be appealed twice – with the final appeal going before the State Supreme Court.
Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink
At the top of the list of concerns the landowners have is the possibility saltwater from the injection site will leak from its container and damage many fresh water resources within the area.
The six-acre site where the proposed disposal well will be located sits right next to Wolf Creek, which empties into the Washita River.
“The Washita then flows to Lake Texhoma. If saltwater from that injection well spills out into Wolf Creek, then it could pollute the entire water system for miles to come,” Menefee said.
Not only are protestors concerned over Wolf Creek possibly being polluted by the saltwater, but also many of the fresh water wells the landowners depend on.
“If there is a leak from the disposal site, it could reach those wells and ruin many of our wells and our livelihoods,” Menefee added.
Farmers in the area depend on the water wells for a variety of reasons, including irrigating their crops and providing water for their livestock.
Some of the landowners in the area are well aware of what can happen when saltwater mixes with water wells.
They were victims of a water flood by Marathon Oil in the 60s and 70s when Marathon flooded the reservoir formation in the area with saltwater in an effort to displace residual oil.
The water flood went horribly wrong and ruined several fresh water wells in the area.
Marathon Oil was eventually sued over the incident and was forced to pay millions in damages as well as truck in fresh water to some of the damaged properties until they could be connected to a rural water district line.
One of those landowners is Stubby Giles, Pauls Valley. Giles was a victim of the Marathon Oil water flood and eventually had to have fresh water piped to his property as a result of the water flood damage to his well.
Giles was one of many landowners who attended a meeting last Friday night sponsored by CAVU to address concerns about the proposed saltwater disposal site.
Robinson stated during the meeting the Marathon Oil disaster was not a problem he and his company created.
“You may not be the cause of the problem, but you’re going to intensify the problem,” stated Giles during the meeting.
Giles’ property is approximately 500 yards from the proposed CAVU disposal well.
CAVU and Robinson brought in two geologists to plead the case for the disposal well and to remark on its safety and soundness.
Giles, and others, weren’t impressed.
“All they tried to do was shove something down our throats,” Giles told the News Star.
Something stinks in a loud way
Another concern petitioners have with the proposed site is the odor that will come from the disposal well and the amount of noise pollution the site will produce.
Giles, who has seven years experience in the oil field business, said oil field saltwater has a distinct odor to it.
“Once you smell it you won’t forget it,” he said.
Also, a disposal well will produce a lot of noise, protesters say, which is the reason they live in the country – to get away from the noise.
“It will be noisy, especially for all of those who live near the site such as Benny (Montgomery),” Menefee said. “And they are planning on this being a 24/7 operation, which means it’s going to be noisy at all times during the day and night. No one is going to get any sleep.”
A heavy load
Perhaps one of the largest concerns is the amount of truck traffic that will travel up and down Longmire Lake Road and other county roads leading to the site.
According to CAVU’s website, the disposal well will bring in approximately 160 trucks a day carrying saltwater and other oil related wastes to the site.
However, CAVU and Robinson claimed during the meeting the total number of trucks going to the site would be much less than that.
“These are semi trucks. They’re heavy and they will tear up our roads,” Menefee said.
The idea of that many trucks tearing up county roads isn’t appealing to the Garvin County Commissioners, who are already strapped for road funds.
Currently the commissioners are considering a possible contract with any company hauling equipment or materials in excess of the 20-ton limit to pay a fee to transport such loads.
The money from the fees will go to defray the cost to repair the roads that are damaged.
“The stability of those roads affects everyone in the county,” Menefee added.
Property owners and those who oppose the disposal well also cite the method CAVU has taken in notifying the public of the proposed site.
CAVU ran required legal notices in the Oklahoman and in the Pauls Valley Democrat notifying the public of their intention to construct a disposal well on the six-acre site.
“They did what they had to do legally,” stated Menefee. “They should have done more.”
Which brings the matter full circle, right back to Benny Montgomery’s back porch.
Montgomery said CAVU never talked to him about the site, even though he and several other property owners live just feet away from the proposed injection well.
“One day I looked out my back window and they were cutting down several pecan trees where the well was going to be located,” Montgomery recalls.
“Some of those trees were over 100 years old. So I asked what was going on and that’s when they told me what was going to happen.”
To this day, Montgomery added, no one from CAVU has discussed the situation with him.