Oil producers set to pump Bird Creek amid EPA’s ongoing investigation of salt water contamination
Two oil companies with operations facing possible shutdown by the Environmental Protection Agency plan to try their own method this week to clean up a contaminated section of Bird Creek on the Chapman Ranch in Osage County.
“This is one of the deepest holes, and it still has a higher concentration of salt water,” said Doug Norton, chief operating officer at Warren American Oil Co. “We are absolutely convinced that our operations had nothing to do with the contamination, but the EPA order would shut us in, so we need to do whatever we can to help everyone understand what’s going on out there.
They pointed out that the creek has been slowly clearing up over the months and cited the opinion of a third-party expert in saying they believe the spill was a one-time event of unknown origin.
The companies have been working since early October to secure permission and work out agreements to bring equipment and crews onto the Chapman Ranch property.
“I don’t think they wanted to do anything that wasn’t first approved of by the EPA, which is reasonable,” Norton said.
The agency continues to evaluate its data from the site, he said, and the administrative process that governs the initial order and appeal process — which could lead to federal court — will continue normally.
The problem with the creek arose more than a year ago, in August 2016, with an oily sheen on the water and dead fish and turtles in a pool near a county road bridge on the ranch and in the middle of a horse pasture.
Out of an abundance of caution, the city of Pawhuska switched its water supply to an alternate source nowhere near the creek.
Producers initially complied with the order, but upon consultation with their own experts they resumed operations and made formal appeals to the EPA’s order.
At a public hearing Oct. 11 in Tulsa the companies laid out their arguments and announced intentions to make their own attempt at cleaning up the creek.