Cities alarmed over sour gas
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
PAYNE SPRINGS–The Payne Springs City Council has called a special
meeting for 7:30 p.m. Monday (tomorrow) to amend its ordinance regarding
oil and gas drilling operations to extend into the town’s
Just outside the city limits, a pad site for a drilling operation has
been poured on property fronting State Highway 198, across from Harbor
“I’m concerned about the population density in the vicinity of the well,
should gas escape,” Payne Springs Mayor J.T. Noble said. “If we can get
this done, the city could have a little bit of say over it.”
The Star Harbor community was to meet for an informational meeting on
this issue at 10 a.m. Saturday (yesterday).
The Enchanted Oaks Council met in special session Thursday morning to
approve a letter addressed to John Tintera in Austin, assistant director
of technical permitting for the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC).
The letter requests a public hearing on the issue to be held in the area
before a drilling permit is issued. The letter also points out the
area’s limited escape routes, should a catastrophic event occur.
“My concern is there is only one road of escape, and that’s State
Highway 198,” Enchanted Oaks Mayor Don Warner said.
“If it is exposed to lethal levels of poisonous gas, the residents of
Enchanted Oaks would be trapped,” he pointed out. “Our only escape route
is over the water.
“The health and safety of Enchanted Oaks residents is my number one
concern,” Warner added.
The city of Tool, along with communities on the south end of Cedar Creek
Lake, faced a similar situation in the mid ’90s over the installation of
a pipeline from the Tool sour gas drill site to the Eustace gas plant.
Representatives from Black Brush Oil and Gas Co. out of San Antonio have
made courtesy calls on Noble and Henderson County Judge David Holstein
this week, informing them of their intentions.
Company representatives are expected to make a presentation at the Payne
Springs Community Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, during the city
council’s regular meeting.
In addition, an e-mail from a petrochemical industry insider has been
circulating among the lake community.
Black Brush is planning to drill a Smackover zone well to a depth
containing high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (H2S).
The drilling would extend under the lake towards Tool, four miles away
from the drill site. A pipeline would also be installed to carry the gas
The e-mail from Galen Hartman, laboratory director of Chemical Analysis,
Inc. in Irving, warns that concentrations of the toxic and irritating
gas at the target area will be about 220,000 parts per million (ppm) or
Exposure to concentrations in the 500-700 ppm range will cause loss of
consciousness and possibly death within 30 minutes to an hour.
Should the integrity of the sour gas drill site be compromised, the area
of exposure would be miles in all directions of the well, Hartman
He questions the availability of escape routes should the roads become
blanketed with the heavier-than-air gas and other hazardous components.
Charles Ross, state field operations officer with the TRC, explained the
commission’s two-part permitting process.
First, the commission regulates the location of the drill site, to
ensure it does not affect other mineral estates and addresses any
inefficiencies in drawing off the reservoir.
The second part addresses presence of hydrogen sulfide.
“The commission would look closely at this to see how they operate the
well,” Ross told The Monitor.
The permittee is required to submit a contingency plan in adherence to
Rule 36, he said. This would be on file with the TRC district office in
Kilgore, he said.
“The intent of Rule 36 is to protect the public,” Ross added.
The contingency plan must be in place before commencement of operations,
and must provide an organized plan of action for alerting and protecting
the public prior to an intentional release, or following the accidental
release of a potentially hazardous volume of hydrogen sulfide.
Rule 36 goes on to contain pages of provisions a driller must follow.
The TRC oversees the efficient use of resource and safety of 375,491
oil, gas and injection well operations across the state.
Of that number, 80,000 are sour oil wells and 9,000 are sour gas wells,
“We’ll be looking very closely at this, due to the close proximity to
communities,” Ross said.
Seventy-two such wells are located in District 5, which includes
There are three sour wells already in the county, according to the TRC
website. The one in Eustace carries 850,000 ppm of H2S, while another
one, called Chicken Soup, has 800,000 ppm and the third just 22,600 ppm
There is no evidence that repeated exposures to H2S results in
accumulative or systemic poisoning.
Effects such as irritation to the eyes and respiratory tract, slow pulse
rate, lassitude, digestive disturbances and cold sweats may occur, but
disappear in a relatively short time after removal from exposure.
Odors of sour gas (rotten-egg smell) can be detected in concentrations
as low as .008 ppm. However, the sense of smell is lost from exposure to
100 ppm over a period of two to 15 minutes.
Whitman gets life without parole
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–A Kemp man charged with capital murder for the death of a
2-year-old in Tool was sentenced to life without parole as part of a
plea bargain agreement Friday.
Had the case gone to trial, and a conviction resulted, he would have
faced the death penalty.
The hearing was held in the 3rd District Court with Judge Mark Calhoon
Michael Lyndon Whitman, 38, was charged last October and held on a
half-a-million dollar bond. Whitman had a criminal history dating back
The Tool Police Department responded to a 911 call Oct. 25, 2007, in the
Royal Oaks subdivision.
Former assistant chief Martha Decker described the dead child Malaki as
having bruises, contusions and ligature marks.
Whitman, along with the boy’s grandmother were supposedly baby-sitting.
The child’s parents Tamara Overturf and Michael Dick prepared
statements, which were read during the hearing.
Whitman’s mother was so upset by the statements and adamant to be heard
had to be escorted out and arrested for disorderly conduct.
Eustace man dies in wreck
Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–A Eustace man was killed in a two-vehicle wreck on Loop 7 in
Athens near 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Billy Dwain Wyche, 68, was eastbound on Loop 7 when an 18-wheeler truck
driven by Jose Banda, 29, of Dallas, pulled out of Farm-to-Market 1616,
apparently intending to turn left into the westbound lanes of Loop 7.
Wyche’s 2007 Ford Focus hit and stuck under the trailer near the rear
wheels, and was dragged sideways a short distance before the truck
Wyche was pronounced dead at the scene by Henderson County Precinct 6
Justice of the Peace Milton Adams. Investigation into the accident was
continuing at presstime Thursday.
Annual games kick off the 53rd Mabank Western Week
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
With tiny Kylie Neighbors hanging on, the Neighbors Towing group – Aaron
Caleb Reimers, Daniel Teel and Dakota Flanery – scramble for a
first-place finish in
the annual Mabank Western Week bed race Tuesday, clocking 17.03 seconds
to win by
1.15 seconds over second-place Young Folks. Eight teams competed in the
bed races at
the Pavilion in George Watts Park.