Seep or Spill at Soule Park?

Officials are content with unconfirmed source of oil in San Antonio creek after winter storms - 

CFROG is working across Ventura County to ensure all spills and leaks are properly investigated and a thorough report that identifies the true source and cause are filed. 

The following is from a letter sent to the Ventura County Planning and Environmental Health Departments on May 15, 2017 - 

Prior to February 22, 2017 there was an oil spill located on Lion/Black Mountain (Ojai Valley) and the Bentley Lease. CFROG has reviewed the report dated Feb. 22, 2017, on the follow-up inspection and was disappointed that no serious attempt was made to reach the source of the spill or seep – which seems necessary to conclude the true nature and source of the spill.  The territory on that hillside is not impassable, nor very strenuous, however there is likely some poison oak. 

Here is the finding from the report we received as reported by VC Environmental Health - 

We confirmed oil globules flowing with water in the canyon although the source could not be located due to poor accessibility.

CFROG has members who have spent considerable time in the area of the leaking oil and they have never seen any signs of a seep. But the report seems to suggest that all involved in the investigation immediately assumed it was a seep. There is another possible source.

Oil well maps from the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) indicate that there are several very old oil wells up the hillside from the location of the spill.  Two of these oil wells, the Pirie wells, are some of the oldest in the Ojai Valley area.  According to Anneliese Anderle, P.E. retired DOGGR Div. 2 Field Supervisor, the wells uphill from the visual spill area were all poorly abandoned decades ago. 

It would seem plausible that oil could leak from a poorly abandoned oil well following a slide or other topography change during the heavy rains (the DOGGR record for these wells contains a letter encouraging immediate abandonment because of the high slide danger).  According to Ms. Anderle the whole field is under unusually high pressure which might explain how the spill could occur from an old well bore. This would seem worthy of further investigation, to truly rule out this possibility.

 Or, it could be a natural seep that has occurred since the old oil wells were originally drilled. 

 Our researchers have found THIS LINK to an old oil bulletin that observed that there were no seeps in the area around the Pirie oil wells on Lion Mountain at the time the wells were drilled.

The 1987 DOGGR map of seeps in Ventura County does not show any seeps in the area of the Bentley Ranch.  We recognize that not all seeps in existence may be included on this map, because there is a nearby seep (as noted in report) - a fact that demonstrates the DOGGR seep list is inaccurate and cannot be relied upon to tell us where seeps are located. 

CFROG is concerned that without verification of the existence of a seep capable of spewing enough crude oil that it could enter the Soule Park Golf Course and San Antonio Creek, we may be overlooking a more serious problem.  So, we urge Ventura County, now that the ground has dried out and the old road which quickly becomes a heavily vegetated trail is likely passable, to do some further investigation to get to the source of the spill.  This is the only way we can be assured that the actual source of the spill has been definitively determined and that the investigation has been thorough and complete.

As noted in the VC Environmental Health report, “DOGGR will consider it a natural seep.”  Such an unverified conclusion seems hasty and unnecessary and could have more serious consequences in the future were it to be inaccurate.  If the cause is a natural seep, then it should be mapped as such with an exact location noted on DOGGR maps for future reference.

Action Item: 

Join CFROG in asking VC Environmental Health Dept (VCEHD) to do a full and complete investigation, that includes confirming the source of the seep or spill by calling or emailing:

William Stratton, Director VCEHD – 805-654-2818

CFROG is working across Ventura County to ensure all spills and leaks are properly investigated and a thorough report that identifies the true source and cause are filed. Will you support us with a $25 monthly donation today!