When you live in a community where a major industry thrives, you just expect that all precautions are taken to ensure the safety of the community. This includes protecting other businesses from any negative effects of the industry. When that doesn’t happen, it can cause irreversible and catastrophic damage.
“Orphaned” oil wells – ones that have been abandoned for any given reason – litter the country. According to the Bismarck Tribune, there are more than 700 orphaned wells in North Dakota. Reclaiming and plugging these wells is proving difficult, because there’s no clear statute for who bears responsibility once the wells are sold. As such, the numbers are likely to increase even more as the oil boom slows. With more orphan wells comes added risk for personal injury.
Abandoned wells have hidden dangers
Over one million oil wells existed before anyone came up with a plan for sealing them once they ceased being active. Hundreds of thousands of those same wells were never mapped before they were abandoned. This means that many individuals and businesses may have no idea their property even contains a hazardous well until one becomes a serious problem.
Spill hazards can lead to a host of problems for more than just the local natural wildlife. Agriculture is affected, and that, in turn, may affect the health of humans. All of this creates an economic impact that no North Dakotans should have to bear, especially if responsibility for the orphaned wells falls to the State.
Other, hidden dangers from orphan wells
The sky’s the limit when it comes to ways abandoned oil wells can harm people and property.
- Explosions from built up methane can cause property damage and injury to anyone within the reach of the blow. Flying debris and falling structures can cause serious injuries. In a dry season, even a small spark can lead to an out-of-control fire.
- Underground gas leaks require building evacuations. This endangers lives and can cause mass casualties if an explosion were to occur. It also may lead to injuries if a building needs to be evacuated quickly by creating an “every man for himself” situation.
- Electrical equipment and pipes left underground will eventually erode, leaching chemicals into the soil and groundwater.
- Abandoned wells may not be properly cordoned off or covered, leading to trip and fall hazards. Depending on the size of the well and the erosion around it, a fall can lead to a sprained ankle or a fractured spine.
- Even when wells are being plugged, the workers themselves could still be at risk. An abandoned well can be just as dangerous as an active one, and clean-up crews must be given the appropriate safety equipment and training to do their work.
Oil and gas work has always been dangerous. If you have been injured while working on a well, you need an experienced North Dakota oil field injury attorney on your side. Larson Law Firm, P.C. will put its decades of hard work and skill to work for you in handling your claim. To schedule your free consultation in our Minot or Bismarck offices, call 701-484-4878, or reach out to us through our contact page today.