City Council may hear more from Oil waste disposal company

April 10, 2013
Santa Paula City Council

On March 18, Santa Paula City Council members heard from Anterra Waste Director, Robert Ayling about the oil field waste disposal company’s plans to put a facility on Mission Rock Road near the Santa Clara River.

City Manager Jaime Fontes, in responding to a request from Mayor Ralph Fernandez, created an opportunity at the meeting for Ayling to explain what the project will entail.

“We are here as a good corporate citizen and at short notice,” said Ayling. “ I appreciate the chance to talk with you. Our application [is being handled] by the Ventura County planning commission. We are not asking for any consents or approvals from the City of Santa Paula, but we realize that we are adjacent to you.” He went on to say that Anterra employs about 50 people in the County, and explained that they have “outgrown” their facility in Oxnard. “What we do is commonplace in the industry. It is highly regulated. We have a number of local and statewide regulatory bodies that regulate what we do.”

“I didn’t know much about [what you do], a citizen contacted me who was concerned,” said Fernandez. “[They wondered] how it will  affect our water table? Is there any risk to the water table?”

“What we do is very safe. It doesn’t pose a threat to anybody,” said Ayling. “ What we do is very, very well regulated, it’s very well designed. There is no risk to the groundwater. We discharge into a zone that is...thousands of feet below the groundwater.”  

“Are you going to use old wells?” asked Vice Mayor Richard Cook.

“We are going to drill a new well,” said Ayling. “Targeting about 4500 feet. We are injecting into at 4000 to 6000 feet. I understand the City has six wells it draws water from. They are as deep as 1000 feet, but our research tells us you are actually taking water from 120-160 feet. So we are thousands of feet below that. And so there is absolutely no issue here about the City’s water supply.” In explaining the process used, Ayling said, “Essentially we take mud and water that are generated from oil field production or exploration and we recover the oil, separate out the solids, and that is disposed of properly in a landfill. We take the brine and we inject it into disposal wells.”

According to the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brine water is “often saltier than seawater, this brine can also contain toxic metals and radioactive substances. It can be very damaging to the environment and public health if it is discharged to surface water of the land surface. By injecting the brine deep underground Class II wells prevent surface contamination of soil and water.” The site also states, “All oil and gas producing states require the injection of brine into the originating formation or into formations that are similar to those from which it was extracted.” The EPA also confirms that Class II wells are used for disposal of frack fluids under and that “wastewater...can contain high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS), fracturing fluid additives, metals and naturally occurring radioactive materials.”

In California Class II disposal wells are regulated by the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), according to their website evaluations of the geologic and engineering are part of the permitting process as well as public hearings. “Most well sites are inspected annually by Division engineers,” states the website.

“Yes, hydraulic fracturing fluids would be handled at a Class II facility,” said Brian Baca, Ventura County planning manager for commercial and industrial permits, responding previously to questions about whether this type of facility disposes of frack fluids. Frack fluids contain water, sand and various chemicals, and can include, according to a 2011 Congressional report, several cancer causing chemicals.

“I would hate for the public to get confused with what you do [and] fracking,” said Council Member Martin Hernandez. He mentioned having a power point presentation to explain the basics of the disposal injection well facility.

Fontes indicated that if the Council wants further information, and wants to ensure the public is informed, that they put the item on a future agenda and a presentation can be prepared.

“If they resubmit their application [to the County], then yes it will be on a future agenda,” said Lucy Blanco, from the office of the Deputy City Clerk.  She is referring to the fact that the County Planning office requested more information for their application to be considered complete. The County is waiting for a response from Anterra before the application is processed.

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