Film of oil on open salt water tank kills birds, Oklahoma Corporation Commission reports

Several dead birds found in uncovered salt water tank in northwest Oklahoma.
FROM STAFF REPORTS Published: July 29, 2014
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Two barn owls have died after they were found soaked in oil last week from an open salt water tank in Major County.

A Lahoma woman discovered the birds July 22 at a well site on the line between Garfield and Major counties, according to an Oklahoma Corporation Commission report.

A field inspector confirmed an uncovered salt water tank with an oil film on top was overflowing at the site, which is operated by Cushing-based High Energy.

The company could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The report indicated there were several dead birds in the tank, with oil on the ground around it. Such tanks are supposed to be covered under state and federal rules.

The oil-soaked owls were taken to a Fairview woman licensed to handle such animals, but both subsequently died, the Enid News & Eagle reported Monday.

Federal statutes call for substantial fines and penalties when certain bird species die after coming into contact with oil or oil byproducts, according to an advisory rule that is part of the rules for state oil and natural gas operators.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was unable to comment on a possible investigation Monday because its law enforcement agents were out of the office, according to an agency spokesperson.

The Corporation Commission report noted oil contamination inside the dike around the well site, as well as tall weeds and other fire hazards. The site also lacked proper lease signs and other markings.

The inspector gave operator High Energy until Aug. 23 to repair the site and remove contaminated soil.