Pipeline leaks saltwater into creek and onto ground in Walnut Hill

WALNUT HILL — An undetermined amount of saltwater from an injection well pipeline leaked onto the ground Sunday morning in rural Walnut Hill and into a nearby creek.

According to Kell Fire Chief Lonnie McDaneld, around 3 a.m. Sunday a neighbor smelled the brine in the 83-hundred block of Baseline Road east of Walnut Hill, checked the well after daylight, discovered the leak and called 9-1-1.

Kell firefighters arrived on the scene around 9:05 in the morning and shut off the valve to the pump to stop any additional salt water from spilling onto the ground. McDaneld notes that much of the saltwater was running into a nearby creek. Firefighters remained on the scene for about an hour and a half.

The well is owned by Petco Petroleum of Altamont. The company is investigating the cause of the leak, and the EPA was called to monitor the cleanup.

The saltwater produced by oil and natural gas production is much saltier than seawater and may also contain petroleum and residue from hydraulic fracturing.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued Petco in a 61-count complaint was filed in 2013 with the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) for water pollution violations, alleging that the company is “the worst polluter in the field of Illinois oil production.”

Madigan’s complaint alleges that Petco Petroleum repeatedly failed to maintain and upgrade its wells and drilling equipment to prevent spills onto the ground and into waterways. The complaint documents 61 counts of water pollution violations over the past four years due to recurring oil spills and salt water brine releases at the company’s wells near St. Elmo in Fayette County.