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Well blowout aftermath evident in Karnes County

Brown fields, shriveled leaves as cleanup goes on

KARNES COUNTY, Texas – Recent rains left fields and pastures lush and green, except where crude oil rained down during the May 19 well blowout east of Karnes City.

"After the blowout, everything was black," said Jonathan Schulz, whose 14-acre property was downwind of the well. "Fences and gates were dripping with oil."

Gone are the oily icicles, only the slimy feel remains.

Schulz surveyed his land and that of his neighbors, which is now brown, the leaves of many trees left shriveled and dying.

"About half my place is coated with it," Schulz said. "I don't how bad because they haven't told me how bad it is."

Doug Hock, spokesman for well owner Encana Oil and Gas, said they've spent the past week taking test samples.

"We've done soil sampling, sampling vegetation, assessing livestock," Hock said. "We're at a point where we can begin our remediation now that our test results are coming back."

He said for instance, two veterinarians have said they see no long-term impact on livestock.

Most of the affected houses have been cleared for occupancy, with the exception of five that were closest to the well. Security is posted outside each property.

Hock said industrial hygienists have taken samples to ensure the homes are safe.

Leonard Cordova, who is among the evacuees still housed at a local hotel, said he is concerned about his 2-year-old daughter, Violet.

His home is about 100 yards from the well.

"Whether they clean it up or not, I don't feel it will ever be safe for her," he said.

As for the cause of the blowout, Hock said they were unable to regulate the pressure from the well, but they don't know why.

He said, "We have some ideas but it would be premature at this point to speculate until we've concluded a comprehensive investigation."