Skip to main content

Oil and gas companies spill millions of gallons of wastewater in Texas

An exclusive Inside Climate News analysis found that companies have spilled nearly 150 million gallons of toxic, highly saline wastewater in Texas over the last decade.

By Martha Pskowski and Peter Aldhous, Inside Climate News
Oil and gas lawyer Sarah Stogner visits Lake Boehmer in Pecos County where abandoned wells have brought produced water to the surface for decades. The Railroad Commission considers these water wells and therefore not under their jurisdiction.

Produced water bubbles up to the surface near Imperial, Texas from an abandoned well. Produced water spills and discharges have taken a toll on lands across Texas.
An orphaned well in Crane County began spewing produced water in 2021. The salty water covered a large area that required remediation. The salty soil was excavating, leaving this pit.

Spill logs reveal trends

Inline article image

Railroad Commission leaves produced water spill rules vague

Produced water is stored in tanks outside Pecos, Texas in August 2023. Disposing of billions of gallons of produced water is a growing challenge for the oil and gas industry in Texas.

Company policies vary

Produced water has bubbled up to the surface from an abandoned well near Imperial, Texas for years. Known as Lake Boehmer, the site is encrusted with salt crystals and high levels of hydrogen sulfide.
Salt crystals from produced water that spewed across a ranch in Crane County. The salt and chlorides can take years to break down and have lasting impacts of soil health.
Inline article image

Railroad Commission spill response protocol

Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) district offices occupy the same office building in Midland, Texas. The TCEQ now oversees permitting for produced water discharges in Texas.

Texans need truth. Help us report it.

Yes, I'll donate today

Explore related story topics

Energy Environment State government Texas Railroad Commission