Fillmore Water Supply not safe from Oil Operations: My Comment to State Agency
October 27, 2017
Department of Conservation 801 K Street
Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR)
MS 24-02 Sacramento, CA 95814
ATTN: Aquifer Exemption for Seneca Oil Company
I recommend Seneca’s application to expand its territory for oil waste re-injection be denied. There is a simple reason for this: there can be no absolute guarantees that their re-injected toxic fluids from oil extraction will not contaminate the Fillmore Subbasin, the only water supply for the 15,000 residents of the city of Fillmore, a mere mile away. The “Exemption” they seek would exempt them from the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, a very bad idea.
Seneca’s engineering claims of safety are substantial but we have locally seen that all kinds of problems with oil production and transportation can occur even with top notch engineering. Last year a Crimson oil pipeline in the city of Ventura spouted a leak that left 45,000 gallons of light crude in the Prince Barranca at the base of our hillsides. Was this equipment failure or human error? It certainly was not planned for in the careful engineering process of retrofitting this old pipeline with additional shut off valves. But it happened, and without the good ears and actions of a nearby citizen to go investigate at 4:30 am and call the company to shut it down, many more thousands of gallons of oil would have flowed through the barranca, ultimately out to the beach and ocean at San Jon Rd. Even so the clean up took months, restoration is ongoing, costing many millions of dollars, and litigation still proceeds.
But there would be no clean up of Seneca’s toxic fluids once they bled into the sole water supply for Fillmore. There is no “fail safe” guarantee, nor is there a “safe fail” fall back. There is always equipment failure, human error, undetected geologic anomalies, and of course shifting strata from even small earthquakes, which our whole area is prone to.
If this contamination took place, what would Seneca do? It would obviously be fined, excoriated, and probably like so many other oil companies, go out of business. Where would that leave the city of Fillmore? Obviously on top of an underground toxic waste dump that leaves the citizens and the farmers and the business people without a means of living there.
Should we trust Seneca to do the right thing? Their engineering studies may impress citizens, local officials and supporters about their technological expertise. And their long history of working this Sespe Basal field counts for something. However we learn that they have been fined for drilling and working outside of their permitted “exemption” already. This company therefore should not be trusted on the face of it. Expanding their “exemption” would reward illegal behavior in the very oil field in which they want to expand operations.
Let them stay where they are with our fingers crossed that they will be lucky and avoid damaging the environment, and certainly keep them away from the very life blood of a large community—its water supply.