Mystery Oil Well Leaking Into Washington County Creek

Friday, June 1st 2012, 10:17 pm
By: Tess Maune

Oil from a 100 year-old well, is spilling into a Green Country creek. State workers are trying to pinpoint the exact leak's location along Coon Creek northeast of Dewey.

It's unusual because oil wells aren't drilled in creeks, and this well was never intended to be in such a place.

But over time, erosion pushed back the creek banks, essentially swallowing the well. It's a messy and mucky mystery,

John Hurd, a field inspector with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, says there's an oil well somewhere in the area that was abandoned possibly a century ago.

Hurd says he suspects at some point the well quit producing enough oil to turn a profit, so the operators shut it down and took every bit of equipment with them. He also believes they didn't cap the well.

"What we end up with is a hole in the ground which makes this 50 times harder to find, because we've gone over this whole thing with metal detectors," Hurd said.

The leak was spotted about three weeks ago and ever since workers have been trying to unearth the well. Hurd says it could be buried some 600 feet under the earth's surface.

"They drilled into that, now it's beginning to pressure up and it's pushing the fluids to the surface and they're breaking out in shale," Hurd said.

Right now the oil is contained because of series of dams have been created to keep the oil from flowing up Coon Creek.

As far as wildlife is concerned, Hurd says so far the leak is having very little effect. The majority of the oil was safely flushed from the water.

"I have not seen one dead minnow, and that just amazed me," he said. "We have no dead fish."

For now, contaminated soil is being pushed to one side for the EPA to inspect.

"That's the least of my worries right now," he said. "My biggest worry is this hole in the ground."

Hurd says at this point, it's impossible to say when they'll find the well. But once that happens, crews will anchor it, mark it, and then plug it with cement to stop the flow.