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Texas petroleum company agrees to pay $90,000 to settle Safe Drinking Water violations on Navajo lands in Utah

Release Date: 12/1/2004
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, (415) 947-4248 , chavez.wendy@epa.gov

Photo of Mountain States injection well SAN FRANCISCO -- An Amarillo, Texas-based petroleum company operating on Navajo lands in Utah recently agreed to pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency $90,000 to settle violations of federal regulations.

In September 2002, the EPA cited Mountain States Petroleum Corporation for several violations at one of the company's injection wells, which it uses to dispose of non-hazardous fluids from its oil and gas production operations.

The company failed to establish the well's mechanical integrity, failed to get EPA approval to modify the construction of the well, and failed to establish financial responsibility to properly close the injection well. Mountain States also failed to submit annual monitoring reports, which the EPA uses to determine operating status and compliance, and operated the well without the agency's authorization.

"Given the numerous violations that occurred at this facility, we believe this is a fair and appropriate settlement," said Alexis Strauss, director of the Water Division for the EPA's Pacific Southwest office. "It is critical for companies to adhere to their permit requirements and to comply with all Safe Drinking Water Act requirements to protect water resources in the arid West."

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA issues underground injection control permits for a variety of purposes, including oil and gas-related wastewater disposal. UIC permits authorize the specific waste stream that may be injected, as well as prescribe operating parameters that must be met to ensure protection of underground sources of drinking water.

The oil and gas production industry accounts for a large proportion of the fluids injected into the subsurface. When oil and gas are extracted, large amounts of salt water, or brine, are also brought to the surface. Salt water can be very damaging when discharged into surface water, thus it is typically injected into similar formations from which it was extracted.

Over 2 billion gallons of brine are injected daily into injection wells in the U.S.

Mountain States is one of about two dozen companies located on the Navajo Nation with EPA authorization to dispose of non-hazardous oil and gas waste into underground injection wells, most of which are 2,000 to 3,000 feet deep.

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