About Air and Water

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Is this "the industry standard" for covering up a drilling well sump hole so children can't fall in?

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - June 6, 2009

PHOTO BY EDDIE CROSSWHITE - copyright 2009 - used by permission
Driver Pipeline's work crew's responded to instructions this week to cover-up the deep well hole (sump holes) on the Daniel Drive DFW Midstreams Pipeline/ONCOR constuction site in East Arlington. Homeowner Eddie Crosswhite photographed the hole from his back yard after the crew was gone. The president of DFW Midstreams Pipeline, in a phone coversation with Faith Chatham Wednesday afternoon stated:
"They are supposed to be covering the sump hole when they leave each day. Do you know if that is happening?"
Faith assured him that she could find out.

A call to Mr. Crosswhite, whose's home shares a common boundary only a few feet north of this site, prompted him to shoot this picture. Harriet Irby shot video tape of one of the Zapada children, an adorable pre-schooler, playing in his side yard about ten feet from this uncovered, insufficiently-fenced, unsecured, toxic sump-hole filled with drilling chemicals, petroleum residue, salt water and sludge from the coring process. This is not a mud puddle. It is a deep-well hole filled with quick-sand-like drilling sludge.

Construction commenced on this site about nine weeks ago. The company has not fenced the site, despite knowlege that several children reside in the home sharing the southern boundary of this pipeline construction site.

Neither ONCOR/Luminant, owner of the utility right-of-way, nor DFW Midstreams Pipeline, nor their parent company, Texas Energy Futures, has exercised minimal work-site security precautions at the Daniel Drive pipeline construction site in this residential neighborhood.. Their one security guard usually sits in a car parked without a clear view of the opening between the Zapata children's back and side yards and the uncovered sump-holes on the construction site.

Blantant disregard for the health and safety of residents in this neighborhood opens investors in these companies to unnecessary risks.

See related article in The Arlington Texan with embedded links to Jim Grimes and the NEWS 33 teams coverage.

Persuaded by pipeline industry lobbyist citing the advantages of "self-regulation",and generous campaign contributions by individuals and industry PACS, Texas lawmakers have stripped municipalities and other governmental agencies (other than the Texas Railroad Commission) from authority to enforce local building codes and ordinances at pipeline construction sites. Lawmakers have granted the Texas Railroad Commission sole authority to enforce what few restrictions Texas places on the pipeline industry. Gas development in the Barnett Shale, in high-density inner city neighborhoods creates health and safety hazards on par with construction in backward third-world countries.

It doesn't take a petroleum engineer or environmental scientist to identify numerous violations to common decency and reasonable work-place safety practices at this site.

I don't believe there is a parent or grandparent employed at any of these companies would trust the less than "half-ass" poles forming a triangle around this well-sump hole we saw at the Daniel Dr. site Wednesday night to keep any of their children or grandchildren from falling in if they were, like the Zapata children, living within a few feet of this hazard!

Curiousity is natural. Children learn about danger by testing it. Small children disobey parents and go out in their yard when the get a chance.

We urge investors in Luminant, ONCOR, TXU, Texas Energy Futures, and DFW Midsrtreams Pipeline to complain to your investor relations officials about unnecessary risks at these company's work-sites and/or on their utility easements in Arlington.

Without reasonable regulation and sensible enforcement, chaos thrives. Where there is chaos, there are accidents. This job site reflects chaos and shows evidence of unmigitated stupidity.

PHOTO BY EDDIE CROSSWHITE - copyright 2009 - used by permission
This is not the only unsecured, uncovered sump-hole at a DFW Midstreams Pipeline construction site in East Arlington.

After videotaping this site, Mr. Crosswhite and Harriet Irby, photographed another one on the ONCOR/LUMINANT utility easement at a City of Arlington park adjacent to Hugh Smith Recreation Center on New York Ave. The coring/drilling site on the park is farther away from homes than the narrow distance between the Zapata home and Crosswhite home on Daniel Drive. However, parks attract children. All families do not keep their children home after dark. Instead of erecting a fence and installing a gate around the drilling site which they can lock, the company erected barriers on some sides and left at least one side open.

Other Problems:
At the Park, we saw a hose running from the sump hole into a creek outside of the utility easement (a possible E.P.A. violation to The Clean Water Act). The sump-hole was uncovered.

The security guard was on the parking lot, across the creek some distance from the worksite. It appears that the company uses security more to insure that their equipment is not stolen than to help prevent people, especially children, from wandering in and getting hurt.

Chemicals utilized in the drilling operation were not secured at either job site. What good does it do to regulate child-safety at day care centers, schools and residences when companies are allowed to to leave hazardous chemicals unsecured near children's play yards. We videotaped one of the Zapata children playing near stacks of buckets/pails of drilling chemicals stored by the pipeline construction crew between his home and the temporary plyboard wall they erected. The company refers to it as "sound-baffling" but it has no sound absorbant blankets on it like are normally used when companies are serious about sound-abatement. For the convenience of the workers, they left a generous opening between the plyboard so they could get to the chemicals, without concern that their opening (and other unfenced openings) makes it easy for children to wander onto the jobsite, and possibly fall into one of three deep quicksand-like sump holes on the site!
They drill down 15' to 20' and install the steel pipe utilizing horizontal drilling similar to when they drill the gas wells. They bring up salt water and sludge from the coring operation out of the well-holes (sump holes). These are deep, dangerous, wet, sump holes filled with drilling mud and drilling chemicals. They are wide enough for an adult to fall in and drown, let alone a child.

Industrial Development in parks and neighbors:

What good does it do for parents and schools and daycares to lock dangerous household chemicals in closets and kitchen counters when an industry is allowed to leave pails and buckets and barrels of chemicals on unfenced worksites adjacent to children's play-yards? Perhaps the pipelne industry will take work-site safety more seriously if Texas lawmakers grants the Department of Child Protective Services inspection authority for work-sites in residential neighborhoods and at parks. An industry which chooses to operate in residential neighborhoods deserves greater, not less, scrunity. Fines generated for safety violations involving risks to children's health and welfare could help fund additional social workers to inspect worksites and to cover regular CPS case work for at-risk children. To avoid CPS caseworkers coming onto their worksites, they may get serious and take child safety issues on worksites in residential neighborhoods seriously.

If the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society are put at the greatest risk as their parks and neighborhoods are invaded by industrial development, state lawmakers cannot continue exempting an arrogant industry from observing zoning codes, safety ordinances and construction/worksite regulations which other businesses have to observe.

Lawmakers should allow local municipalities to enforce reasonable regulations on pipeline transmission, construction, and gas and petroleum production and storage in high-density residential neighborhoods. Since children are at greater risk, companies who ignore basic child safety practices while profiting from developing gas (and transmission) in the Barnett Shale should fund additional services for those who bear the cost -- the children who live nearby.

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