Crews from Boots and Coots, a gas well control company, managed to seal a natural gas well in southwest Arlington on Sunday after a mishap at the Little Road drilling site prompted voluntary evacuations of homes.
No natural gas was released during the incident, city officials said, but 115 people were asked to leave their homes during the third effort to plug the well.
Just before 3:30 p.m., Arlington city officials announced that the well was sealed off and residents could go home. Those asked to evacuate had homes within an eighth of a mile from Vantage Energy’s Lake Arlington Baptist Church well site.
“This was a very serious situation,” Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson said in a prepared statement. “To get this incident under control, we worked closely with all city departments, Vantage Energy, AISD, the Red Cross and our faith-based organizations. Working together, we resolved this as quickly and safely as possible.”
About 3 p.m. Saturday, Vantage Energy called 911 to report that natural gas was pushing pressurized fracking water out of the well. As a precaution, the Fire Department at first evacuated 13 nearby homes. The evacuation zone was expanded at about noon Sunday after two efforts to plug the leaking well were unsuccessful. The well was finally brought under control around 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Public safety crews created dirt berms to contain fracking water that was back-flowing out of the well. Fire officials said the water did not enter Lake Arlington, a source of the city’s drinking water. They said the drilling company would need to remedy effects of the incident at the drilling site. The Fire Department and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality conducted air monitoring, and no flammable gases were detected, Crowson said..
To help displaced residents, the Red Cross opened an Emergency Evacuation post at Martin High School, 4501 W. Pleasant Road in Arlington.
Officials were concerned that natural gas could escape and catch fire. Teams from rescue, fire control hazardous materials and a gas well response team were on standby.
Crowson said the Fire Department participated in table-top exercises with gas drillers and Boots and Coots about two years ago to map out responses for a variety of gas well site emergencies.
The drilling incident comes just days before a proposed state law, House Bill 40, comes up for debate in the Texas Legislature on Tuesday. The bill, which would bolster state control over urban drilling, had to be rewritten after city officials complained during a contentious hearing in Austin that it limits local government influence over urban drilling.
The bill limits local control to surface activities such as noise abatement and trucking. Attempts to ban drilling would not be allowed.
Shortly before the well was brought under control, Crowson met with an elected state official Sunday afternoon at an Arlington fire station to reaffirm the need for cities to maintain local control.
“I’m concerned there is a potential that local control may be lessened. It is exactly local control that keeps the local community safe,” Crowson said.
Arlington has 56 pad sites with 306 gas wells, Crowson said. While the Fire Department has responded to gas releases and other incidents at pad sites in the past, Crowson said this was the first time an emergency well control team had to be called in.
Staff writer Monica Nagy contributed to this report, which contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639