Spill's Bill Not Taxpayer's Problem

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Black gold has become rude crude near the Navasota River after a spill threatening the environment. Engineers worked through the day Thursday to try and clean up the mess.

"Our main objective is to contain the oil so it doesn't spread anymore," said engineer Adam Taylor, "which, fortunately, at this location, it's pretty much like that, and then, from there, determine the source area, which is what we're doing right now."

These were the images from Wednesday, just after the spill. According to the state, a now-defunct business, DJ Oil Field Salvage, is supposed to care for the wells there. Angie Howard and her husband own the property now, and lease it to a cattle rancher.

"There was an old well here, and we're just assuming that the oil is coming up through the casing and leaking out," said Howard. "We're hoping that none of the cattle did drink any of the water that the oil was in, and hoping that it didn't cause any problems. As for the rest of the environment, I know it could affect the fish, the wildlife. We just have to hope that none of that happens."

The latest estimates show cleanup costs of around $175,000, a total to be covered by the Oil Field Cleanup Fund, which was created by the state legislature for cleanups and to plug wells. For now, the final price tag is not at issue. It's cleaning up what's out there, which at this point, is a difficult puzzle to piece together.

"It's hard to determine," Taylor said. "We've recovered about 260 barrels of fluid. It's a mixture of oil and water."

A mixture that both engineers and landowners hope won't prove problematic in the future.

"We're just really thankful it was found and that now, it can be taken care of before it causes any problems," said Howard.

State officials say DJ Oil Field Salvage is also responsible for three more wells that have spilled. Their attempts to contact the owners of the company have been unsuccessful.