Saltwater disposal site in Timpson closed down following earthquake

Saltwater disposal site in Timpson closed down following earthquake
Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian says closure of saltwater disposal sites following seismic activity is for the safety of the residents. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian says closure of saltwater disposal sites following seismic activity is for the safety of the residents. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Shelby Co. Commissioner Bradley Allen and Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison discuss recent earthquake activity. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Shelby Co. Commissioner Bradley Allen and Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison discuss recent earthquake activity. (Source: KTRE Staff)

SHELBY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A saltwater disposal site close to the epicenter of last night's earthquake in Timpson, which is located in northern Shelby County, has been shut down by the Texas Railroad Commission.

It's the Katy Saltwater Disposal site on Farm to Market Road 1970. Saltwater trucks were dumping thousands of gallons of brine in the direct vicinity of the recent Timpson earthquake's epicenter. A  magnitude 2.5 quake happened at 11:30 Tuesday night. Exactly one week earlier, in the same vicinity, a magnitude 3.2 earthquake happened.

We learned today from Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian of Center, Shelby County's county seat, that the site was shut down the very same day.

"Anytime there is seismic activity, we've now developed a policy in Texas that you can no longer dispose of water or even drill for oil and gas in line with a fault in the earth that we know of," Christian explained.

Currently all industry activity is at a standstill within five miles on each side of the fault that runs through the Timpson vicinity. Scientists are completing evaluations for the safety of residents.

"We now measure the pressure regularly from the Railroad Commission office in Kilgore to make sure, we the state, are measuring pressure in all disposal wells," Christian said.

Shelby County Judge Allison Harbison said, "Any earthquake concerns me."

She and County Commissioner Bradley Allen, whose precinct is earthquake territory, were unaware of the site's closure.

"Hopefully, we won't have another one, but it certainly, certainly could [happen]," Allen said.

As they wait, there remains a concern for the future of the oil and gas industry.

"We need the oil and gas industry to come back. We need it desperately for this county," Harbison said. "But again, is it going to destroy our homes and our livelihood in the long run? What do you do?"

Christian drafted a letter today to concerned constituents that noted prior to 2014 disposal wells were regulated inadequately.

The new policies conflict with some of Christian's conservative core beliefs, but he agrees that when it comes to earthquakes, it's wise to err on the side of caution.

"Is it right for government to shut down any business without proof that they're causing a problem? Of course not, so we're trying to prove that, but for the safety of the public shut it down right now," Christian said.

Katy Saltwater Disposal, based in Longview, was contacted for a comment on the site closure. A company spokesperson said the company is planning to issue a statement, but at this time they refer to no comment.

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