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Permian Highway Pipeline LLC, Kinder Morgan to be sued for alleged contamination of drinking water

Two local advocacy groups have partnered under a memorandum of agreement to pursue this legal action against PHP and Kinder Morgan.

WIMBERLEY, Texas — Attorneys for the Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) announced on April 8 its intent to sue the Permian Highway Pipeline LLC (PHP) and its managing partner, Kinder Morgan, for alleged contamination of an underground source of drinking water as a result of PHP construction operations in Blanco County on March 28, 2020.

According to TESPA, a notice letter identifies a class 1A carcinogen on the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the drilling mud that contaminated the aquifer and the water supply of area homeowners. TESPA claims the letter also identifies four federal environmental laws that may have been violated by the contamination of an aquifer that is the sole source of drinking water for rural residents.

RELATED: Environmental group calls for 'thorough investigation' as residents report contaminated water near pipeline construction

The four following allegations were made in the notice letter: 

  1. A violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act by injecting fluids into an underground source of drinking water 
  2. Creating an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  3. Discharging pollutants in violation of the nationwide permit #12 issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
  4. Discharging pollutants into waters of the U.S. without a permit. All of these acts have citizen suit provisions but require advance notice of intent to sue in order to establish jurisdiction in the federal court system.

The Wimberley Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) joins TESPA, partnering under a memorandum of agreement to pursue this legal action. They say they are working together more generally for the protection of groundwater throughout the karst geological region of Texas.

The announcement comes after KVUE received reports Blanco County residents' tap water had turned brown in the area of Chimney Valley Road near Highway 165. 

According to one Facebook post, the brown water appeared to be coming from Spring Branch Well, not far from where Kinder Morgan's controversial Permian Highway Pipeline was being trenched under the Blanco River.

RELATED: Judge's order allows pipeline construction in Hill Country to 'begin immediately'

KVUE reached out to Kinder Morgan on April 2 about whether the pipeline's construction had anything to do with the brown water. The company sent the following statement:

"On Saturday, March 28, Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) experienced an underground drilling fluid loss during construction in Blanco County, Texas. The drilling fluid is comprised of bentonite clay and water. Bentonite is a naturally occurring, non-hazardous, non-toxic clay. We strive for zero incidents and minimal environmental impact on all our construction projects. At this time, drilling operations have been suspended while the team evaluates the cause of the loss and determines the best path forward. We are working with affected landowners to address their needs. We are also consulting with our karst expert and the local water district manager to determine the best way to mitigate any current and future impacts. All of the appropriate regulatory agencies have been notified."

For more background on this story, click here.

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