It’s Alive! What Is A ‘Zombie Well’ & Why Are The So Harmful In Texas?
If zombies began to infest the Texas countryside, it would be a huge problem. What if I told you that they are already here, and are causing absolute havoc? Well, they are here, and they are causing a big environmental mess.
Zombie wells are orphaned oil wells that have managed to "unplug" themselves or their plug is failing. Wells are supposed to be plugged at the end of their "useful life" that is, when they are no longer producing. An unplugged orphan well can cause huge environmental and health problems:
Unplugged or poorly plugged wells are an environmental hazard as they provide potential conduits for fluids to migrate between formations and potentially into the fresh water zones. Poorly plugged wells also might provide pathways for natural gas to seep to the surface and potentially cause fire or be a health hazards.
In other words, they can contaminate other wells, contaminate fresh water and they can set fires. I'd almost rather have regular zombies.
Zombie wells can cause other problems too, because there's no telling what all chemicals and fluids they can bring to the surface:
They carry all sorts of chemicals with them when they come and it’s very salty water that can kill plant life at the surface and contaminate groundwater potentially. [They can bring up] salty water, oil, gas, benzene, sometimes radioactive elements.
So who is responsible for fixing these wells? Apparently, that's a big part of the problem. In some cases, the well is so old that the original owner/ operator is no longer in existence. Otherwise, they are responsible. Some ranchers who own or lease the land will pay to plug the wells just to get it fixed, but that can be costly and difficult for them- and it isn't necessarily their responsibility.
Oil and gas in Texas fall under the purview of the Texas Railroad Commission. Here's hoping they find a solution soon, before all these nasty chemicals make any real zombies- or worse (and much more likely) make our water poisonous and kill off our plants.