Karnes County officers follow-up on oil spill

Contributed photo Oil spills continue to cost the county money that could be spent for the other county needs.

By Bruce Harper Karnes Countywide staff

KARNES COUNTY – The county suffers several oil spills a year, according to the road and bridge engineer and the county commissioners. 

Some are Texas Department of Transportation problems if they occur on state highways, but some do fall within Karnes County’s obligation, as did the latest spill on May 11, 2019.

That incident took place on County Road 199, not far from FM Road 791. It is thought the driver was on his way to pick up a full load and wanted to dump the sludge and dredges still in his tanker. 

Approximately 130 barrels of oil field drilling material were dropped around 1 o’clock that morning. A Karnes County constituent reported the spill midafternoon on May 11 and the Karnes County road and bridge officials responded shortly thereafter. The sheriff’s department also responded to the incident and actively participated in documenting the incident.

The road and bridge department quickly contacted a local oil field service company to begin cleanup. The county emergency management team and the oil field service company worked to secure the road and maintain safe traffic operations.

The cost to handle such a spill is estimated to be in the vicinity of $10,000-$20,000, according to County Engineer Wayne Gisler.

About the spill, County Commissioner Sean O’Brien said, “Commissioner (Shelby) Dupnik and I were discussing all of the spills we have had in recent years. Many of them are very minor, so most people are not aware of them. We are told by law enforcement and TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) the transgressors have to be caught in the act, so we need the public’s help. We are going to co-sponsor an agenda item to see if we can offer a reward through Crime Stoppers to catch this culprits.”

Commissioner Benny Lyssy said, “It comes down to public awareness. If you see something, call the sheriff as soon as possible. Gather as much information as you can safely and then call the sheriff. We could be spending the (cleanup) money elsewhere for something the county’s residents need.”

County Judge Wade Hedtke echoed those comments. “Public awareness is critical. If you see anything, make a phone call. If we catch one guy, it will let the rest know we are watching and there are consequences to their actions.”

Hedtke also mentioned the environmental dangers an oil spill generates. “It could wash into our creeks and into the aquifer, causing a lot of damage to our county,” he said.

The southbound lanes of CR 199 were closed until Sunday afternoon when safe operating conditions were restored.