IMPERIAL — Out here in God’s country, 55 miles south-southwest of Odessa, problems with water mean problems for everyone.
That’s what rancher Schuyler Wight says after struggling for years with a 2,800-foot-deep water well whose casing fell in, causing it to wash out salt water over a wide area and create a 90-foot-deep, quarter mile-wide sinkhole running for 5 miles south of here in Pecos County.
Referring to a futile $400,000 effort in 2009 to plug the well by the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District and the Odessa District of the Texas Department of Transportation, Wight said, “TxDOT needs to get off their butt and plug the thing right.
“It would be technically challenging and expensive, but it would be a permanent solution and it wouldn’t cost $35 million like TxDOT is talking about spending to move the highway four miles east, where there are more wells and more sinks. They’ve already spent $1.9 million throwing asphalt into those cracks every time it sinks a little more.
“I’m going to TxDOT meetings in Austin every month and bending their ears about it.”
Wight, who owns the Santa Rosa Ranch here and co-owns the YT Ranch at Goldsmith, reported spending $200,000 of his own money to plug another salty water well a mile-and-a-half south of the one he is worrying with now, adding that there are about 40 such wells within a 10-mile radius that were drilled mostly in the 1940s and ‘50s and also need to be plugged with concrete and bentonite clay.
In the 2009 effort, Wight said, TxDOT and the Fort Stockton-based water district hired a driller who failed to reach the bottom of the well and put in concrete above it. He said the correct approach would be to drill horizontally and put in concrete and bentonite from the bottom up.
Having followed the Pecos County conundrum for years, Ector County Utility District President Tommy Ervin of Odessa said the state and county entities “need a water well engineer who knows something about deep water wells to come up with a plan.
“They could plug it if the cement could be pumped up the bore to the salt dome,” Ervin said. “The water is causing what TxDOT calls a suppression. It used to be called a sag and there are a lot of them.”