The Trillion-Gallon Loophole: Lax Rules for Drillers that Inject Pollutants Into the Earth

The Trillion-Gallon Loophole: Lax Rules for Drillers that Inject Pollutants Into the Earth

The remains of a tanker truck after an explosion ripped through an injection well site in a pasture outside of Rosharon, Texas, on Jan. 13, 2003, killing three workers. The fire occurred as two tanker trucks, including the one above, were unloading thousands of gallons of drilling wastewater. (Photo courtesy of the Chemical Safety Board)

 

by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, Sept. 20, 2012, 12:12 p.m.

On a cold, overcast afternoon in January 2003, two tanker trucks backed up to an injection well site in a pasture outside Rosharon, Texas. There, under a steel shed, they began to unload thousands of gallons of wastewater for burial deep beneath the earth.

 

The waste – the byproduct of oil and gas drilling – was described in regulatory documents as a benign mixture of salt and water. But as the liquid rushed from the trucks, it released a billowing vapor of far more volatile materials, including benzene and other flammable hydrocarbons.

The truck engines, left to idle by their drivers, sucked the fumes from the air, revving into a high-pitched whine. Before anyone could react, one of the trucks backfired, releasing a spark that ignited the invisible cloud. Continue reading “The Trillion-Gallon Loophole: Lax Rules for Drillers that Inject Pollutants Into the Earth”

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