Pipeline construction halted while ‘fluid loss’ incident investigated

By Anita Miller

Residents in Blanco County a mile or so upstream of where the Kinder Morgans Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) crossed the Blanco River are reporting brown tap water coming from their wells.

One of them, who lives off FM 165 about a mile from the Chimney Valley Road turnoff in Blanco posted on Facebook that her tap water had turned brown. The post had a photo of the water, which also appeared foamy.

She also said a well service company had checked it out; however the company, Spring Branch Well, could or would not confirm any calls related to discolored water.

Some else said that Kinder Morgan drillers had hit a karst feature, sending drilling mud in the direction of the underlying aquifer.

Allen Fore, Kinder Morgan vice president, confirmed the latter account.

Fore referred the Hays Free Press to the following statement; 

“On Saturday, March 28, Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) experienced an underground drilling fluid loss during construction in Blanco County, Texas. The drilling fluid is comprised of bentonite clay and water. Bentonite is a naturally occurring, non-hazardous, non-toxic clay. We strive for zero incidents and minimal environmental impact on all our construction projects.  At this time, drilling operations have been suspended while the team evaluates the cause of the loss and determines the best path forward. We are working with affected landowners to address their needs. We are also consulting with our Karst expert and the local Water District Manager to determine the best way to mitigate any current and future impacts. All of the appropriate regulatory agencies have been notified.’

The incident was the second associated with pipeline construction since it began in early March. On Feb. 28, Blanco County firefighters were called to a spot along the pipeline on private property to extinguish a fire in a mulching machine the company uses to take down mature trees.

At that time, the company said the fire was under investigation, though a local fire official said the cause was believed to be accidental.

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