Homes evacuated after well mishap

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 22, 2007

Several homes were evacuated and sections of Pricedale Drive andMount Olive Road were closed Thursday morning while officialscontained a leak from an inactive oil well.

Lincoln County officials said seven houses were evacuated in thePricedale and Mount Olive area, and about a quarter- to half-mileofeach road was closed to insure safety to the people living in thevicinity.

Denbury officials said the well control accident, which involvedthe release of a mixture of carbon dioxide, oil, and salt waterfrom the well, took place at 1:30 a.m. Thursday. Officials said thethreat was eliminated by 11:30 a.m.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Dustin Bairfield arearesidents met with Denbury Onshore LLC representatives at 2 p.m.Thursday to go over details of the accident. Residents were assuredof their complete safety before they were sent back home.

“Denbury’s primary objective was the safety of the public and thesafety of the environment,” said Denbury Southwest MississippiDistrict Manager Billy Biggers. “Immediately following theaccident, the proper authorities were notified, and Denbury workedwith state and local officials to assess any impact to the publicand the environment.”

Officials said there was not a specific impending danger to arearesidents. However, they were not willing to take any safetyrisks.

“There was no indication that there was an immediate threat, but wedid evacuate the area for prudence’s sake,” said Biggers.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said before anything else,Denbury’s representatives were concerned with evacuating arearesidents, even if only as a precaution.

“Denbury’s first priority in all of our meetings was the safety ofthe community. That was one thing they stressed immediately wasmaking sure we were working together to make sure the communityresidents were taken care of,” he said. “They were really concernedabout the needs of the people first and foremost.”

Denbury Southwest Mississippi District Asset Manager Lonnie Ashleysaid the mixture was carried by the carbon dioxide, which tends toroll down to low-lying areas. Therefore, the company is stillinvestigating to make sure any possible contaminants areeliminated.

“When gas is coming out under force, oil and water are going to beatomized, and they’re going to collect. It migrates and is heavierthan air so it will follow from higher elevations to lowerelevations,” he said. “One of the concerns is that you want to keeppeople and animals out of the way.”

He said the leak seemed to have been coming from some wellvalves.

“We’re still investigating, but it appears that the leak was comingfrom some valves on the side of the well in the cellar, which isthe area around the well closer to the ground,” Ashley said.

Officials said this is the only time since Denbury acquired thefield in 2001 that there has been any breach in its equipment.

“In my 12 years, this is the first well control issue I’ve had todeal with,” said Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey.

Officials said nine agencies responded to the emergency, includingindividual agents of other jurisdictions. The Hog Chain and BogueChitto Volunteer Fire Departments, the Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment, Lincoln County Civil Defense, Pike County CivilDefense, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the MississippiDepartment of Environmental Quality, the Mississippi Oil and GasBoard and the Mississippi Department of Health all hadrepresentatives on the scene. The jurisdictions worked togetherwithout a hitch under the Incident Command System that centralizescommand in a multi-jurisdictional incident, according toBiggers.

“ICS was mobilized by Denbury, and we managed the situation under aunified command, according to the plans and procedures establishedby ICS,” said Biggers, adding that Denbury was grateful for theassistance from the various agencies. “Our training and experiencewith ICS helped in our successful management of the situation, andall of the work was accomplished without injury or incident.”

Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Commander John Douglas, who is atrained hazardous materials technician and teaches ICS classes,said the ICS system worked like clockwork. He added that Denburywas extremely well-prepared.

“It was two totally different disciplines coming together. Andwhile we didn’t know what each other could do starting off, it felltogether really well,” he said. “I was just a very small player init, but as far as I could see it went great.”