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Oil, gas wells in county listed as dangerous

Staff writer

Nearly two dozen abandoned oil and gas wells in northeast Marion County pose significant dangers and require plugging, according to a regulatory report filed with the state legislature.

Three of the wells are deemed threats because of active gas flows with a danger of ignition or because of open, large-diameter wellbores or casings.

Twelve others are thought to be creating ongoing or potential impacts in sensitive groundwater areas.

Impacts include degradation of water quality or loss of water supplies through downward drainage, Kansas Corporation Commission’s conservation division states in the report.

Eight additional abandoned wells are regarded as posing similar threats but are outside designated sensitive groundwater areas.

None of the Marion County wells are what the report labels Priority I, Level A — the most serious level, generally for wells in urban areas.

But 15 of them are in Priority I, Level B, and 8 are in Priority I, Level C, the next most serious categories.

“If they were an immediate danger, they would be more highly prioritized,” agency public affairs director Linda Berry said Thursday.

All of the wells have been inspected and are awaiting authorization for plugging.

If responsible owners and operators can be located, they pay for the plugging. If not, the state has some resources to devote to the effort, Berry said.

According to the commission, which is charged with overseeing oil and gas drilling in the state, the cost to plug a well in this region over the past five years has averaged $6,752, making the possible bill for fixing these reportedly abandoned wells could total $155,296.

To date, only six county wells that were on the list at one time or another have been plugged.

Three others that had been on the list later were removed for other, unspecified reasons, which Berry said could include that they were erroneously reported to be abandoned.

The largest number of county wells listed as being in greatest need of plugging are in two sections, immediately northwest and southeast of US-56/77 and 340th Rd.

Other wells in that category are in a section immediately northwest of Lincolnville and in an area bounded by US-56/77 and Xavier, 250th and 260th Rds.

Wells in the less serious category all are in an area bounded by 260th, 270th, and Clover Rds. and the eastern county line.

Of the 1,300 wells listed in Level A statewide, about 200 to 300 of them are plugged each year, Berry said, so it may be some time before Marion County wells are plugged.

Last modified July 2, 2019

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