Hundreds of wells in Arizona could be posing a dormant danger
State using a $25 Million grant to locate and seal long-forgotten wells
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - State officials are on the hunt for long-forgotten wells that haven’t been used in years, and in some cases, more than a century. These wells are known as orphaned wells and are up to the state to clean up since they have been deemed as having no viable owner.
According to records Arizona’s Family Investigates obtained from the state, the wells are dotted across the Arizona landscape, including in metro Phoenix. State records show one well is an old oil and gas exploration well near the corner of 44th Street and Indian School in Phoenix.
State officials are now working to locate 246 possible orphaned wells and ensure they are properly sealed off. The only problem is the state needs to figure out exactly how many there are.
The wells could just be pipes sticking up out of the ground, with some leading thousands of feet below ground. The danger: some of them could leak gasses polluting surrounding areas. “A lot of them are really old and that’s why they don’t have owners and that’s why they’re not properly plugged and abandoned,” Daniel Czecholinski, air quality director with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said.
ADEQ believes 246 wells have been identified as being potential orphaned wells. As a result, the state plans on using a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Interior to find and seal those sites.
The state agency is launching a new website where people can report wells they find. Environmentalists say these wells pose a real danger. “Some of the wells that we are aware of are already near drinking water supplies,” Steve Brittle, president of the non-profit Don’t Waste Arizona, said.
Brittle applauds the state’s effort to find and plug the wells, but he says it is the symptom of a larger problem. “It’s also another example of how we allow companies to come in and do this stuff, really create a type of environmental damage and then they’re gone and the taxpayers ultimately bear the burden,” Brittle said.
Click here to go to the well locator from the Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Click here to report a possible orphaned well to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
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