Recent community attention has been given toward spotlighting the dangers of several defunct oil wells and tanks that are located near Forest Cove Little League fields located at 1560 Sunrise Trail near Kingwood.
Bob Rehak, host of Reduce Flooding, a website dedicated to bringing attention to flood risk factors in the Lake Houston area as well as ways to remediate any risks, recently investigated the risks arising from the defunct oil machinery.
“I first became aware of the issues surrounding these oil wells following the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which inundated them completely. Noxxe Oil and Gas LLC leased two oil wells, as well as three oil and gas storage tanks from a third party (which are located just a few hundred yards away from the Forest Cove baseball fields),” said Rehak. “Because of the leakage that occurred following the inundation of Hurricane Harvey, I filed a complaint which was forwarded to the Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC), who was already aware of the infractions taking place.”
According to Rehak, the wells appear to be very old, likely dating back 50 years and are now rusting. Additionally, the pipes connecting the wells are broken and twisted. Due to the deteriorating nature of the tanks and wells, “The Texas Railroad Commission investigated the site numerous times since Harvey and required cleanup and remediation by the operator until the company [went defunct in the state of Texas],” said Rehak.
Noxxe failed to clean up and remediate the old wells because “Noxxe forfeited its right to do business in Texas for failure to pay franchise taxes in February 2020,” said Rehak.
This was far from the only legal infraction committed by Noxxe in recent years, however. The TRRC ordered Noxxe to pay a fine totaling over $46,000 for a string of violations pertaining to a failure of compliance with state regulations on June 28, 2018. For more details, this TRRC ruling may be found at rrc.state.tx.us/media/48032/03-06070-cjh-def-ord.pdf.
Following Noxxe’s abandonment of their business operations was an abandonment of all their equipment — Noxxe failed to properly decommission the oil wells and tanks at Forest Cove.
“A company is supposed to cement wells down the bore in an area called the annulus, [which is any void between any piping, tubing or casing] in a process which is done at intervals. Cementation prevents oil spillage once a well is decommissioned. In this case, Noxxe failed to take the appropriate steps to safely leave these oil wells behind,” said Rehak.
If a well is to be put out of commission, the company must ensure that “the well bore is filled with drilling fluid, which contains additives which give it special properties that prevent its movement from the well bore into the surrounding rock, according to the Kansas Geological Survey.
Because Noxxe failed to do so, they ultimately put the residents of Forest Grove and any residents who participate in the Little League games at risk.
“Noxxe just walked away from this stuff — these fields are used by many community members. One of the Little League fields closest to the oil wells is a pee-wee field. There is a huge danger present here; if there is another flood/large rainstorm, there could be a potential leakage which could find its way to the Little League fields, which would render these fields unsafe, especially for children,” said Rehak.
Due to Noxxe’s neglect, the TRCC seized their former assets and will now have to initiate the proper procedures to fill the oil well bores so they do not pose a risk to the local area.
It is important to note that according to the Harris County Flood Control District, the TRCC does not perceive an imminent danger. This could change, however, in the event of another serious flood as stipulated by Rehak.
Furthermore, “the cleanup efforts by TRCC will be expensive and paid by taxpayer dollars,” concluded Rehak. Instead of being paid by Noxxe, public taxpayer dollars will now be used to fuel the recovery effort by the TRCC, which “hopes to remediate this situation when the budget resets in the new fiscal year.”
For more information, visit reduceflooding.com/2020/06/05/cleanup-of-forest-cove-oil-wells-tanks-scheduled-for-fall to view Rehak’s analysis.