Nacogdoches Co. creek polluted with drilling mud

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - By Donna McCollum - email

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - For 30 years Steve and Kathy DaSilva have enjoyed walking Martin Creek in eastern Nacogdoches County.

Now their enjoyment is replaced with dismay.

"Not a pretty sight," Steve DaSilva said.

Several weeks ago the DaSilvas discovered extreme amounts of drilling mud up and down the creek.

"Twenty three inches of just that greenish clay," Steve said while measuring the thick substance.

The slick mixture of clay and water, surfaced from a nearby pipeline operation. The main ingredient is bentonite, a non-toxic clay mixed with water. It's useful purpose is to serve as a natural lubricant during pipeline installation. The nuisance is it sometimes flows into waterways causing a messy and potentially dangerous mess.

No one from the company bothered to notify the DaSilvas or authorities.

"If we had not come down here we would have never known about this accident because it was not reported," Kathy said. "And you have to be aware of what's going on your land." The couple warns landowners, particularly absentee property owners, to be watchful of their property during drilling operations.

"I'm not so sure that I would have ever been notified, but in return, they were, after I did go out there and look to their defense they did have the scene already secured," County Judge Joe English said.

The precaution began with hay bales, hardly sufficient to keep the mud from traveling miles down the creek.

The mud is non-toxic but it's like quick sand, dangerous to both animals and the children who visit the creek.

"If I am stuck in this and have a difficult time getting out, you know there's some potential for problem for them as well," Steve said while trying to pull his boot from the creek.  With a hard tug he frees himself, followed by sound of suction.

The DaSilvas notified state inspectors who ordered that the mud be vacuumed or hauled away. A cleanup was ordered, but not to the DaSilvas satisfaction. They say the difficult task turned into a literal cover-up.

"They scraped the bank of all the vegetation bringing it down to cover sludge that entered the creek," Steve said. Now there is concern about erosion, a long lasting problem. Delicate ferns and sturdy roots would hold the bank dirt in place.

Following this report the Texas Railroad Commission contacted the DaSilva's asking to visit the property to see the remaining damage.

The DaSilvas wonder in their lifetime if Martin Creek will ever be the same.

Calls placed to Enbridge , a Canadian-based pipeline company were not immediately returned. A representative from the state railroad commission's oil and gas division directed a call to a media representative. Those calls and e-mails have not been answered.

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