If a resident has a well water problem and they think it's related to oil and gas pollution, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) sends an inspector to check it out. But one lawmaker says there aren't enough inspectors to keep up with the level of activity.
Jack Klinger said the well water on his property in Tonkawa is pretty much worthless. “It's just a mess and you don't know what to do, you know?”
Lab tests show the water is too salty to live on. “That's what we use in the house for everything, all your appliances and your piping underneath the floor in your house and that's eating on all that,” he said.
He recently had to drill two new wells on his property after finding out his water was suddenly saturated with sodium.
He thinks his original water wells were contaminated from nearby disposal wells.
And Klinger's not the only one complaining.
Last year, the OCC reports more than 1,000 pollution complaints and nearly 600 other kinds of complaints, on top of inspecting some 30,000 wells sites in the state.
“They are extremely busy,” said OCC Spokesperson Matt Skinner.
Skinner said roughly 50 field inspectors monitor an average of 3,200 wells a piece. And a total of 70 inspectors have the authority to shut down a potentially problematic disposal well.
Field inspectors operate out of their vehicles and are on call 24/7, according to Skinner.
But lawmakers say that's not cutting it.
Representative Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, wants to give more agencies the power to shut down a problematic well before it contaminates fresh water. Some of the agencies Vaughan suggested have that power include the Department of Environment Quality and the State Fish and Game Warden.
“This is not just some area on the map of our state. These are people that live here, that have lived here all their lives that are being devastated by something we're causing,” he said.
It's an attempt to lower the number of potential pollution complaints and clean up fresh water sources for families who need it.
Klinger plans to test his new water well for quality this week. If it's no good, he'll have to keep hauling water onto his property.