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Water pipeline explosion from oil, gas operation leaves Carlsbad family seeking answers

Carl George said he awoke to an explosion just feet from his house at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in the 6200 block of South Thomason Road after a produced water line burst and sprayed his home with potentially dangerous fluids.

“We heard like a pop sound,” George said. “When I came out, there was a plume of stuff coming up. It spewed up over the road, an on all of us and the animals.”

His animals – several chickens, dogs and a goat – were also covered in the fluid and workers from the line’s owner WPX Energy were on scene within hours to begin the remediation process.

Produced water is fluid leftover from hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas extraction operations. It can contain dangerous chemicals and heavy metals toxic to humans.

They removed contaminated soil, cleaned the house and animals, and remained on scene by about 11:30 a.m.

Kelly Swan, public information officer for WPX said the leak resulted from an “incident” at a WPX job location, but he was unsure how much fluid leaked and the exact cause of the incident.

“We had an incident at our location,” Swan said. “We’re simply trying to do the right thing and get everything repaired and cleaned up quickly. We certainly want to do right by our neighbors.”

Swan said George was the only homeowner who had complained about the leak, and local staff were working with local responders to address the problem.

“You never want anything like this to happen, but when it does, you try to work as quickly as possible to make it right,” he said. “We do want to apologize to the homeowners.”

But although he admitted WPX staff worked closely with him and his family, George said similar incidents are becoming all too common in his neighborhood south of Carlsbad where oil and gas production boomed in recent years.

“We were able to call them and get them out here to fix the issues. It’s unfortunate, but they’re working to fix it.” he said. “It’s just rough. I don’t know how safe any of us are out here.”

George said the formerly quiet, rural community where he lives with his wife and kids recently became surrounded by tank batteries, flare stacks and drilling rigs as operations grew.

He said he was unsure how long he could stay at the home.

“At one point, I had 27 flares around me. It’s all around. There’s not enough oversight,” George said. “I’m not comfortable with it. I think I have to leave, and it’s just finding the way to do it. That’s the problem.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.


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