MIDLAND — City leaders fought a yearlong battle to keep a company from drilling wastewater disposal wells too close to their drinking water. This week, they settled with the company instead, in a decision they say was a last resort.
Pilot Water Solutions, a Houston-based company, is planning to build nine disposal wells to store saltwater that surfaces to the ground during crude oil extraction, a waste byproduct known as produced water. The company hoped to install these wells near T-Bar Ranch, an underground water reservoir from which the city gets a third of its drinking water for more than 132,000 residents.
“Maybe we shouldn’t say this is the safest saltwater disposal system in the country … but it’s safer now because of what we did,” said Midland City Council Member Scott Dufford, referring to the settlement.
In 2022, Midland awarded Pilot licenses that authorized the company to transport produced water to land neighboring T-Bar Ranch. City leaders say they didn’t know Pilot was planning to submit applications with the Railroad Commission of Texas to drill 18 disposal wells in the vicinity of the groundwater.
Virginia Palacios, executive director of Commission Shift, an environmental watchdog group, said that regardless of the concessions reached through the settlement agreement, the saltwater disposal wells could continue to pose a risk for Midland.