While the investigation continues into what caused a wellhead malfunction at a West Arlington gas drilling site over the weekend, city leaders say they’re concerned about the length of time it took the well’s operator, Vantage Energy, to report the incident.
Emergency responders were called out to the site, located next to Lake Arlington Baptist Church in the 3000 block of Little Road, just before 3 p.m. Saturday.
Officials say a single wellhead malfunctioned, causing a back flow of fracking fluid to spill out of it.
Dozens of homes in the area were evacuated while crews worked to stop the leak. No gas escaped the well.
Crews were able to seal the well at about 3 p.m. Sunday and all evacuations were lifted.
During a city council briefing Tuesday, Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson said he was upset to learn the problem at the site first occurred about two hours before Vantage Energy called 911.
“The notification was a failure,” said Crowson. “And we’re going to fix that because I think they need to understand that this jurisdiction expects them to call 911.”
He also told council members the initial 911 call came from a Vantage Energy corporate office in Pennsylvania, rather than the site itself.
“The disconnect there was a problem,” said Crowson.
Once emergency crews reached the area, he said the communication and cooperation from Vantage Energy were much better.
“We have a pretty good history with Vantage,” said Crowson. “The industry is working with us in a way to resolve the issue with a successful conclusion.”
Vantage Energy is defending its actions. In a statement, the company said, “During the first two hours of the incident, our on-site personnel performed a routine intervention operation to isolate the leak. When that operation failed, the incident was then elevated to a higher level of awareness, requiring additional resources. This is a common incident command structure that was implemented effectively in this situation.”
Vantage has since suspended all operations at the site, pending a full review of the incident.
In a separate statement, the company thanked the Arlington Fire Department for their assistance and issued an apology to affected residents. It reads in part, "We extend our sincere apologies to the residents who were affected and inconvenienced by this incident, and can assure them we will take the necessary steps to perform a thorough investigation of the failed wellhead component before resuming operations in the site."
City officials say Vantage Energy will be cited for multiple violations of the city’s drilling ordinance. Vantage will also be responsible for all cleanup and any costs the city incurred as a result of the incident.
While leaders acknowledged there were lapses, Crowson said the bigger takeaway should be what did work.
“Because of that training and our gas well team, and everything else, what could have been really a bad consequence probably was resolved in the best possible way,” said Crowson.