EPA finds violations of underground injection control permit requirements
Maralex Disposal LLC has been found liable for violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act at its commercial brine disposal injection well in La Plata County, Colo., on the Southern Ute Reservation. Maralex was assessed a penalty of $89,000.
The decision, issued by an administrative judge following a hearing in October 2012, upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finding of violations of underground injection control (UIC) permit requirements at the company's Dara Ferguson Injection Well #1, a large-capacity disposal well that injects brine and production wastes to an injection zone approximately 8,000 ft below the surface. These violations, which include failure to maintain mechanical integrity of the well, failure to monitor as required and inaccurate reporting, were discovered through EPA inspections and reports received from the company.
On May 5, 2010, EPA inspected the Maralex injection well and observed excess annulus pressure, indicating a problem with the well’s mechanical integrity and the likelihood of a leak in the system. A follow-up inspection on May 26 again indicated excess pressure. EPA issued a notice of violation (NOV) and instructed Maralex to submit a work plan to fix the violations. Although a letter from the company, dated July 8, 2010, described the potential for a leak and steps the company would take to repair the well, an EPA inspection in April 2011 discovered that the disposal well, although still in operation, had not been repaired as described. EPA subsequently issued a second NOV and ordered the company to shut down the well until repairs were complete. Maralex completed the repairs and conducted a successful mechanical integrity test on May 24, 2011, at which time EPA authorized the company to resume injection into the well.
The EPA-issued UIC permit authorizes Maralex to inject produced water into Dara Ferguson Well #1, which disposes more than 60,000 barrels of waste fluids monthly to a designated injection zone. These fluids contain high concentrations of saline produced water, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.
Compliance with UIC permit requirements protects overlying aquifers from contamination.
Groundwater contamination, especially brine, is often difficult or not possible to address and can destroy underground sources of drinking water. Routine monitoring and the maintenance of mechanical integrity in waste disposal wells are critical requirements of EPA’s UIC regulations.