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5:20am — Lawmaker Warns of Brine Well Collapse

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two wells inside Carlsbad city limits are time bombs, Rep. John Heaton tells state officials.

Two brine wells inside Carlsbad city limits could collapse at any time and swallow everything in their path, state Rep. John Heaton, D-Carlsbad, told state Oil Conservation Division officials on Tuesday, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

“It (the collapse of the wells) could happen tomorrow, six months from now or a year,” Heaton told officials at a public meeting called Tuesday to discuss the threat. “This is a concern for all of us. We need to know what you plan to do.”

The Oil Conservation Division, along with the Eddy County Office of Emergency Management and the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, called the meeting to inform the public on measures being taken so far, the Current-Argus said.

Earlier this month, the OCD put Carlsbad brine well operator I&W Trucking Inc. on notice for unsafe conditions that pose a serious risk to human life and property, the paper reported.

OCD Chairman Mark Fesmire said I&W’s brine operation at a “Y” between U.S. 285 and U.S. 62-180 poses special danger in the event of a collapse, and he said the company has moved its trucking operations to other sites while the state is trying to determine the size of a cavern below the site, the Current-Argus said.

Fesmire said his agency has about $1.8 million in oil reclamation funds, which he said won’t be enough to do what is needed at the site, but said officials are exploring the use of federal stimulus money and the participation of experts from Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, the paper reported.

“This is an emergency situation. … I believe OCD is doing the right thing. All the professionals who have evaluated the data agree there is a high risk that there could be a collapse,” Fesmire told the audience.