The Fire Department has taken a gas well operator to task and imposed rules to make sure a leak like the one that occurred in southwest Arlington on April 11 doesn’t happen again, top fire officials told the City Council at an afternoon work session Tuesday.
A pipe sprung a softball-size hole at the Vantage Energy well site at 3016 Little Road, allowing nearly 43,000 gallons of fracking water and chemicals to gush into the city storm-water system and sparking fears that natural gas would follow, Assistant Fire Chief Jim Self said.
More than 100 families living within 1/8 mile were evacuated as a precaution.
“Some were displaced as long as 21 hours,” Self said.
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No gas leaked, but Vantage employees, trying to fix the problem themselves, waited two hours to call 911.
“That’s unacceptable behavior,” Councilman Robert Rivera said.
Self and Fire Chief Don Crowson assured the council that they have taken steps to clarify the city’s expectations in such emergencies. Step 1: Call 911 before doing anything else.
“We’re not kidding around about the 911 issue,” Crowson said during a break. “It was a very serious situation. It could have ended in a bad outcome. Two hours’ advance notice could have helped alot. Luckily, we were prepared and we worked well with [Vantage], and we were able to resolve the issue.”
The pipe began leaking about 1 p.m. It was carrying water and solvents that had been used, under high pressure, to fracture shale and release its natural gas. At any moment, the frack-water leak could have become a gas leak.
Stopping the leak took almost 24 hours.
City officials praised Vantage officials for their cooperation. City Manager Trey Yelverton said Vantage hasn’t been the only focus. The city’s expectations have been communicated to all drilling operators in Arlington.
In other business, the council told parks officials to work both a senior center and a “multigenerational” activities center into the ongoing update of the parks master plan.
Parks Director Lemuel Randolph estimated the senior center’s cost at $25 million and the all-ages facility at $40 million. He said the master plan was virtually finished in November when a new senior center became a priority.
About 25 older residents in red T-shirts attended the afternoon session to lend silent support for a stand-alone senior center. Then at the evening council meeting, they weren’t so silent. Several walked to the lectern at the end of the meeting to lobby.
Elva Roy, head of Age-Friendly Arlington Action Brigade, asked that the city dedicate the last quarter-cent available in the city sales tax to raising money for a senior center, and put the issue on the November election ballot.
Seniors now use portions of two aging activities center, called Eunice and New York. The seniors want something like the Summit, the $23 million 50-and-over senior center in Grand Prairie that opened in 2010, Roy said.
“When you walk into the Summit, it’s just so tranquil,” she said.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641