News Feature | April 7, 2016

Water Contaminated By Jet Fuel Waste Sparks Lawsuit

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

After allegedly dumping jet fuel into an Oklahoma water source, the oil giant Halliburton is one step closer to resolving legal complaints filed by local property owners who say they were exposed to contaminated water for four decades.

“Court documents state 65 of the 66 plaintiffs representing 44 of the 45 properties and represented by Leach & Sullivan have agreed, signed the necessary paperwork and finalized settlement. Fifty out of the 57 plaintiffs representing 44 of the 45 properties represented by Weitz & Luxenberg have done the same,” the Duncan Banner reported.

“In 2011 water quality tests showed the presence of ammonium perchlorate in the north section of Duncan where an old Halliburton location was used as a place to conduct removal of spent missile fuel,” the Duncan Banner previously reported. “The process released the ammonium perchlorate compound into the groundwater and into private water wells.”

After Halliburton admitted to the contamination in 2011, the U.S. EPA and state officials ordered a cleanup, according to David Page, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.

“First they have to remove the contaminated soil... because every time it rains it leaks the contamination in the ground water again,” he said. “Based on what [state regulators] required, [Halliburton] is taking out the most contaminated soil. The [state] required Halliburton to stop the contaminated water from leaving the site by putting some trenches. Third they put in a pump system... to try to pump out the ground water, clean it... and dump the clean water into Cow Creek.”

Page said that the contamination occurred over four decades.

“For years since about 1976 until just a couple of years ago... people were drinking the water and Halliburton didn’t tell them,” he said. “Halliburton didn’t tell people the water they were drinking was contaminated until 2011, even though they knew they were contaminating the water since 1976.”

Perchlorate is a notoriously persistent contaminant manufactured in such forms as ammonium perchlorate, sodium perchlorate, and potassium perchlorate, according to the EPA. It is found in rocket propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches, and signal flares. The agency has regulated it as a contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2011.

Treatment methods for combatting perchlorate include ion exchange, bioreactors, and in situ bioremediation, the EPA says. Perchlorate exposure has been shown to interfere with the human thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism.

Halliburton disclosed the contamination in 2011. After making it public, the company “entered that year into an agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to clean up the perchlorate,” NBC DFW reported.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.