Creek County residents sue over well pollution


Thursday, February 2nd 2006, 11:04 am
By: News On 6


20 Creek County families say their water is not safe to drink and they are blaming a nearby oil well and taking their pollution concerns to federal court.

News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims went to Kellyville where some residents believe their health is at risk. Fresh water is something most of us take for granted, but in rural Creek County the water could be hazardous to your health.

Janice Butz: "and then it started smelling bad three months ago. It smells like rotten eggs."

Carol Cunningham: "we noticed that the water was tasting funny, smelling funny, there was buildup in the commodes."

Carol and Douglas Cunningham live in a rural area, near Kellyville. They don't have access to a rural water supply, so they get their water from a water well. Or at least they used to, before it was tested.

Carol Cunningham: "He dipped the water out of the swimming pool and he sent us a letter several weeks later saying the water wasn't safe to drink."

The state Corporation Commission told the News on 6, the Cunningham's water is 1,000 times more salty than what's allowed. The Cunningham's neighbors found similar problems.

Officials tested Janice Butz' well and she says they found hydrocarbons or crude oil. “We're drinking that I can't imagine we were drinking water that had all of that oil in it.”

The state Corporation Commission is investigating the source of the problem. But the area residents we've talked to, say they believe a gurgling oil well less than half a mile from the Cunningham home is the source of the problem.

The couple's lawyer took pictures of pipes from that well; they say these holes could have led to salt water and crude oil leaking into the water supply. Attorney Frank Spiegelberg: “what they've done is they've ruined the public water supply that belongs to the people of Oklahoma.”

The Cunningham's have suffered from chest pains, blurred vision, dizziness, and rashes. But they're most concerned about their two grandchildren, both have health problems. Butz has also had rashes that won't go away and she's also worried about her grandchildren. "I just hope later in life, they're healthy now and I hope they stay that way."

The Cunningham's say their first call was to the owner of the well, Petco Petroleum. The couple says the company told them to put bleach in their water well. Then, the oil well was sold to another company, Garvey Oil Company. The Cunningham's say that company promised to investigate, even took samples, but they say they never heard from them again. Now the Cunningham's and 60 other folks are suing both companies.

While the matter works its way through the federal courts, must folks in the area are simply shutting off the water, until its safe.

The News on 6 called Petco Petroleum and a receptionist told us the company's president was out of town. The News on 6 also tried to reach Garvey Oil, but no one answered the phone.