U.S. Water News Online
DAVIS, Okla. -- Engineers and scientists are trying to find
a way to stop salt water from polluting the Washita River.
The salt water seep was first discovered in August when a local
resident, Rick LaNoy, had some water wells drilled on his farm.
Workers using heavy equipment have been turning up the soil and
trying to stop the salt water from flowing into his pond and on to
the river, said Matt Skinner, Oklahoma Corporation Commission
Investigators suspect the problem is caused by a nearby deserted
oil well that could have allowed salt water to escape from
underground caverns left from ancient oceans.
All the fish in his pond have died. Sycamore trees and migrating
ducks have died. His cows have borne five stillborn calves.
LaNoy can't stop thinking about it.
"It bothers you all the time," he said.
So far, about $65,000 has been spent from money collected from oil
and gas producers for environmental emergencies. The governor
approved use of the funds in October.
The Corporation Commission hired workers to plug the water wells
and oil wells, but nothing has stopped the seep, Skinner said.
Hydrologists have continuously tested the river, and no elevated
salt levels have been detected so far, Skinner said.
"No amount of salt water going into the Washita is acceptable,"
Skinner said. "Our top priority is stopping that seep."
The goal was to plug the leak within a month. The deadline has
long since passed.
"This is just one of those deals that's turning into a nightmare,"
Skinner said. "And the guy suffering the most, no doubt, is this land
Workers will restore LaNoy's land when the seep is stopped,
LaNoy said he is frustrated the project is paid for with clean-up
"This is not the state's problem," LaNoy said. "It belongs to
But investigators don't know who.
The Corporation Commission has identified one particular oil well
on LaNoy's property that could be the source of the problem, Skinner
Records show the inactive well was plugged by Conoco in 1949 but
it is unclear who -- if anyone -- owns it now, Skinner said.
The deserted well was plugged with mud, a temporary fix that was
legal until oil wells were first regulated in the 1950s, Skinner
Most wells plugged with cheap materials, such as mud and wood,
eventually leak. Now wells must be plugged with special concrete that
Workers finished plugging the oil well, but scientists haven't
seen a significant drop in the salinity of LaNoy's pond yet, Skinner
said. If the seep doesn't stop, the state will evaluate whether
another nearby well is responsible.
"We can only go by process of elimination."
The water well drilled last summer has been "bottom-plugged,"
Skinner said. The bottom has been sealed with concrete while
engineers and geologists continue evaluating the area.
State officials have offered to buy the land, but LaNoy refused.
His mother willed him the farm, and he promised he would never sell
LaNoy has restored the farmhouse and was hoping to build a second
home. Those plans are on hold.
"It's a bad situation," he said. "It's getting worse every day."
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