Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — A Van Buren County property owner has informed state officials that nearly two dozen barrels pulled from a creek near Clinton containing labels indicating they held chemicals used in the natural gas well fracturing process were empty when he acquired them.

The state Department of Environmental Quality said Monday it was continuing to run test samples of water from Choctaw Creek, although it said preliminary results show the barrels found in the waterway had no affect on the water.

Clinton Mayor Roger Rorie said last week a man reported finding a barrel in the creek while fishing. The Van Buren County Rescue Squad began pulling barrels out of the water Thursday afternoon and had fished at least 20 barrels from the creek by late Friday.

On Monday ADEQ released a letter sent to the department late Friday by Clinton lawyer Kent Tester informing officials that his client, Mike Cullum, owned the barrels.

The agency said Collum informed investigators that he obtained the barrels years ago from a drilling contractor.

"The individual further stated that the barrels were empty when he received them," ADEQ said in a release. "He said he used them for activities for horses and did not know the barrels had washed off of his property until Friday."

The lawyer declined to comment to the Arkansas News Bureau.

In his letter, Tester blamed the barrels being in the creek on recent storms and flooding in Van Buren County, which he said "is the same storm system that resulted in numerous counties in Arkansas and surrounding states (being declared) as disaster areas."

Tester said Cullum had limited resources and could not commit to paying for the cost of the tests being conducted by the state.

ADEQ said final results of its tests are expected by the end of the week.