Arlington

Driller may face fines in Arlington gas well emergency

The Vantage Energy gas well at 2912 Little Road in south Arlington on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. The company faces fines for its handling of a back-flow of fracking water on Saturday and Sunday, the Arlington fire chief told the City Council on Tuesday.
The Vantage Energy gas well at 2912 Little Road in south Arlington on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. The company faces fines for its handling of a back-flow of fracking water on Saturday and Sunday, the Arlington fire chief told the City Council on Tuesday. Star-Telegram

Vantage Energy may face fines for a variety of violations, including waiting nearly two hours to call 911, in a natural gas well site emergency over the weekend that led to the evacuation of more than 100 southwest Arlington homes, Fire Chief Don Crowson said Tuesday.

Crowson and the city staff provided the City Council a preliminary report on the investigation into what caused thousands of gallons of salty, pressurized frack water to begin back-flowing out of a well at Vantage’s Lake Arlington Baptist Church drill site off Little Road on Saturday afternoon.

Though Vantage cooperated with Arlington public safety officials and a specialized crew controlled the well within 24 hours, Crowson said, the company will need to answer questions and resolve issues before the city allows it to continue operating at the site.

“Our expectation is you call 911 in an emergency,” Crowson said. “They called us a couple hours too late. There was already frack fluid water flowing from the site. We were not happy about that and they know about that.”

Frack water began gushing out of the well between 12:30 and 1 p.m. Saturday, Crowson said. Not until around 2:40 p.m. did the company’s corporate office in Pennsylvania call a nonemergency police number to report the problem. After being connected with a fire dispatcher, the caller provided map coordinates for the well site, not a street address, Crowson said.

“The notification was a failure. We are going to fix that,” Crowson said.

Vantage is investigating whether a manufacturing detect led to a hole in the frack adapter flange near the wellhead, city officials said. The flange is reportedly used on other wells at the site.

Vantage said in a statement that it will suspend operations at the site pending a full review.

“We extend our sincere apologies to the residents who were affected and inconvenienced by this incident, and can assure them we will take the necessary steps to perform a thorough investigation of the failed wellhead component before resuming operations on the site,” said John Moran, vice president of operations.

As a precaution, the city asked for a voluntary evacuation of homes within an eighth of a mile of the site Sunday afternoon during a third attempt to plug the out-of-control well. The well was plugged just before 2:30 p.m. Investigators did not detect flammable gas, but the city is still awaiting the results of testing on water, soil and air samples taken over the weekend.

Vantage spokeswoman Nancy Farrar said the company followed routine procedures.

“During the first two hours of the incident, our on-site personnel performed a routine intervention operation to isolate the leak,” Farrar said. “When that operation failed, the incident was then elevated to a higher level of awareness requiring additional resources. It is at this time that the [Arlington Fire Department] was contacted to assist as one of those resources. This is a common incident command structure that was implemented effectively in this situation.”

Spill into creeks

Much of the frack water was contained on the site and was pumped into either tanks or trucks. However, Crowson said thousands of gallons of the salty water also flowed into Rush Creek and Village Creek. The water did not enter Lake Arlington, one of the city’s drinking-water sources, and officials did not express any health concerns.

Crowson showed council members videos and photos from the well site and outlined numerous public safety measures that were employed, such as removing explosives used in fracking and declaring a no-fly zone up to 5,000 feet over the pad site.

Because homes were evacuated, the city set up an emergency shelter at Martin High School and a resident information center at the Fire Training Center.

Crowson said Arlington will seek reimbursement from Vantage for the city resources required during the emergency. Arlington will also oversee cleanup efforts to ensure that the site is brought back to city and state environmental standards, said Collin Gregory, the city’s gas well coordinator.

Arlington is still determining which citations to issue. They carry up to a $2,000 fine each.

“The industry is on notice now that we are not happy with the delayed call,” Crowson said. “We have some work to do on that issue.”

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639

Twitter: @susanschrock

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