EPA Protects Rivers, Lakes and Streams by Plugging Abandoned Oil Wells in Western New York

Over the past six years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has plugged close to 300 abandoned – and in some cases leaking –  oil wells in Western New York in an effort to prevent any remaining oil that may be in the wells from reaching nearby lakes, rivers and streams. The abandoned wells, many of which no longer have owners, have not been maintained for decades, and are gradually deteriorating to the point at which crude oil could leak from broken well casings, pipes and storage tanks. To prevent future leaks, EPA has had the wells filled with concrete and a fine clay substance called bentonite to immobilize any remaining oil. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation referred the abandoned oil wells to EPA for cleanup.

“Oil is one of the worst water pollutants, and the abandoned oil wells like the ones that EPA has cleaned up represent a threat to our most vital natural resource – clean water,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “By plugging hundreds of abandoned oil wells, we’re protecting public health and the environment, and fixing a problem that had been decades in the making.”

Since 2005, EPA has overseen the plugging of 294 wells at six locations. They are:

·  The Curtis Farm Oil Wells Site in Bolivar, N.Y., where 136 have been plugged. The site is near the Little Genesee Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny River.

·  The West Union Oil Wells Site in West Union, N.Y. Ninety-one wells were plugged at this site near the New York/Pennsylvania border in Steuben County. Areas from which contaminated soil was removed were filled with clean soil. Students from SUNY-Brockport helped replace native plants that were damaged or destroyed during the removal.

·  The Weston Lot 7 Oil Wells Site in Olean, N.Y., where 34 wells have been plugged. The oil rights for the company extracting oil from this site, which borders Mix Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny River, were not transferred when the company’s owner died in 1994. 

·  The Ballard Oil Lease Site in Bolivar, N.Y. Thirty-one wells have been plugged at this site, which is also near the Little Genesee Creek.

·  The Dodge Creek Oil Well Site in Clarksville, N.Y. One well was plugged at this site, which borders Dodge Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny River. Dodge Creek is a trout habitat and home to the Eastern Hellbender salamander, a species of listed special concern in New York State.

·  The McGraw One Oil Well Site in West Union, N.Y. One well was plugged at this site after no owner or operator could be identified following a citizen complaint. The site is near Marsh Creek, a tributary of the Genesee River.

Later this summer, EPA will oversee the plugging of abandoned wells on the Burrows Oil Lease Site in Olean, N.Y. The site comprises 13 crude oil production wells, some of which are leaking or show evidence of past leakage. The site borders Mix Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny River.

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