Massive sinkhole prompts city to sue

What started as a small cave-in of a so-called injection well now covers six acres and is now 250-feet deep

May 6, 2010 2:43:32 PM PDT
It's been two years since a massive sinkhole opened up in the city of Daisetta, in Liberty County. What started as a small cave-in of a so-called injection well now covers six acres and is now 250-feet deep. Now the city and residents are filing suit against the company responsible for the well. Daisetta is a town whose fortune seems to rise and fall with the oil industry. Sitting on a salt dome, the area is not only good for finding oil, but for disposing of the saltwater used to pull the oil from the ground.

But two years ago a saltwater well next to Highway 770 collapsed and created a huge sinkhole. For Mayor Lynn Wells, things here haven't been the same.

He said, "We don't know no more today, two years later, than we did the day that it happened."

So the city filed suit in the Liberty County courthouse against Deloach Vacuum,the company that owned that well, along with three other oil companies -- Saratoga, Triangle and Exxonmobil. They say not only did the sinkhole ruin their land values, but it also revealed, according to the suit, that someone's been dumping chemicals.

Mayor Wells said he's changed his habits since the sinkhole appeared. "We're mainly buying bottled water."

The suit alleges that water tests have found three dangerous chemicals not naturally found in water.

Attorney Rick McGuire said, "It looks like certain chemicals that weren't supposed to be put into the ground were being put into the well. Some of these chemicals came up along with a large amount of saltwater as far as a mile away."

Deloach told Eyewitness News that they didn't know about the suit and don't want to comment. Despite multiple phone calls, we couldn't reach representatives from the other companies.

The city is hoping to win enough money to dig a new city well. Even though current chemical levels are within guidelines the fear is that whatever was pumped into the collapsed well is now slowly leaching into the permanent water supply.

"Daisetta is going to have to do something to replenish their water source," explained McGuire. "They're going to have to reclaim in some shape, form or fashion their water."

This story was brought to you through our partnership with Houston Community Newspapers. You can read more about the sinkhole and the lawsuits in the Cleveland Advocate.


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