Rancher Finds Oil Contamination In Ground Water

We are looking into claims by a Texoma rancher that the groundwater underneath his land is contaminated with oil waste.  Once through 18 feet of earth, you can see oil and oil waste floating on top of water in the Seymour aquifer.  Not only does that aquifer provide water for crops, but it goes straight into some people's homes.

Back in 2005, lightning struck an oil plant near Robert Crowell's ranch in Knox County.  The whole facility burned for three days.  That was the start of Crowell's woes.

"It released all kinds of saltwater and oil and had a big spill," he said.

After that, Crowell says the Railroad Commission told the facility operator to take all the leftover waste to a landfill, but it was rejected because it was too hazardous.  Later, Crowell says bulldozers came and buried the waste on what is now his land.

"We came out yesterday, rented that equipment, and dug this back up, and as you can tell, it's clearly, clearly has crude oil still on the ground water," he said. "All of my neighbors and friends, these farmers, they irrigate out of the Seymour Aquifer, and also this aquifer migrates to the Brazos River."

Crowell used to drink water from the tap at his home, but doesn't anymore.

"I don't drink that water.  I wouldn't drink that water for anything in the world," he said.

Now, he just hopes that when officials see what's under his land, they'll get something done quickly.

"All those people are getting money from these oil companies, and I'm not getting my place cleaned up.  I'm not saying they're getting paid off, but I'm certainly not getting my place cleaned up," he said.

We left a message with the Railroad Commission, but they have not called us back yet.  We also spoke with a representative Kinder Morgan, the company that has owned the oil facility since 2006.  Emily Thompson tells us the company has spent $1.5 million cleaning up contamination left by previous owners, and another $5 million repairing wells in the area. Thompson says the RRC has already approved their cleanup in 12 different sites in the area.

Spencer Blake, Newschannel 6