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Patricia Fite
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New rules, still no answers about saltwater purge

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Spring continues bubbling in field southwest of Omega

The shut-in period for four saltwater disposal wells in the vicinity of an ongoing purge southwest of Omega has been extended indefinitely and four additional disposal wells were to be shut in by Saturday, by directive of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

High salinity saltwater is still bubbling to the surface at an average rate of about 125 barrels per day in a wheatfield belonging to brothers Donald and Ronald Schweitzer, even though the four disposal wells in closest proximity to the site have been shut in for more than six weeks so far.

Another action taken by the OCC on Friday will limit injection pressure on another 12 disposal wells continuing to operate in the Watonga area to no more than 1,000 pounds per square inch (PSI), OCC spokesperson Matt Skinner said.

Lists of the affected wells and the map of their location appear in the photos above.

Meanwhile, a working group consisting of a consulting geophysicist, an engineer, OCC staffers and members of industry are continuing to study the problem, Skinner said.

"Our overall goal is still to stop the purge and we’re trying to do that by reducing the pressure within the field,” he said.

A trench has been dug on the Schweitzer property to divert the flow to the borrow ditch, where it is being regularly siphoned off and trucked away.

Donald Schweitzer told the Times & Free Press that heaving rains frequently push the water out of the ditch and across the road into adjacent fields.

The investigation is focusing on the Permian formation and the OCC has stopped permitting new disposal into the Permian within an 11,000-square-mile area, Skinner said.

A statewide policy also has been adopted restricting any new disposal wells injecting into the Pennsylvanian geologic subsystem, will be restricted to 10,000 barrels per day. 

New commercial disposal wells wishing to inject an amount between 5,000 barrels per day and the 10,000-barrel limit will have to go to hearing in the OCC court system,” Skinner said.

Devon Energy voluntarily plugged in three vertical oil wells in closest proximity to the purge, but that had no impact on the volume of water coming to the surface,

The saltwater purge just west of the Blaine County line (see map), so named because the water is coming up from underground as opposed to an above ground spill, was reported by the Schweitzers after they noticed trees dying along the opposite roadside early last summer and then discovered a soft spot in their field during wheat harvest. Saltwater has been bubbling to the surface unabated since that time.

The purge is located about 50 yards south of the intersection of NS Road 2690 and EW 800.