TEXAS-Johnson County officials are concerned about “mud” spills, the mess that some companies leave behind when waste is hauled away from drilling sites.
When trucks loaded with the mud used in the gas drilling process travel too fast along county roads, some of it spills out, and county officials are sometimes left to clean up the mess.
The Johnson County’s emergency management coordinator, said cleanup costs are mounting, and the problem is also plaguing other counties in the Barnett Shale.
The mud contains lubricants and toxic chemicals used to make the drill bit turn more easily. When mud spills onto roadways, it is like ice, sometimes leading to serious accidents.
Two years ago, one man was killed in a motorcycle accident at a mud spill site in Alvarado, and other vehicles have been destroyed after slipping and sliding in the muck.
And the opportunity for additional accidents is increasing. Three years ago, trucks accounted for 30 percent of the traffic on Johnson County roads, while trucks now make up about 60 percent of the traffic, according Texas Department of Transportation reports. Most of the increase in truck traffic is associated with gas well drilling.
The county has spent around $50,000 to clean up spills over the past year. Part of the cost involves hiring environmental firms to haul away tainted dirt to landfills.
One spill, which happened when someone stole a trailer filled with diesel fuel from a drilling site, cost $35,000 to clean up.
Two weeks ago it cost $14,000 to clean up an incident involving a company that was hauling off hydraulic fluid used to lubricate rig engines.
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