The City of Clinton was awaiting the results of a test Friday that would identify the liquid contents of 21 barrels discovered in Chocktaw Creek, a tributary of Greers Ferry Lake.
Mayor Roger Rorie said the 55-gallon drums discovered by a fisherman late Thursday were associated with the natural gas industry.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality confirmed that some of the barrels were labeled as "lubricants used in the drilling process."
"We have ordered the county to start the removal process. All have been removed and are in a secure location. The containers are not leaking," Cecillea Pond-Mayo, ADEQ spokesperson, said.
Rorie stated the barrels’ "seals" were broken, though there were lids on each of them.
"The seals were broken on all of them," Rorie said. "They had caps on them, but there was … I don’t think there was a barrel with a seal on it."
According to Mayo, "some were sealed, and some were not."
She said that the ADEQ was in the process of identifying the responsible party and testing the area’s water and some of the fluid that was in the barrels.
"We’re still investigating where the barrels came from," she said.
Rorie said he was told in a meeting Friday afternoon that ownership of the containers was claimed by representatives of DE Soto Drilling Inc.
Mayo said that she could not label the incident an "accident" or as part of an "infraction."
"The barrels should not be in the creek. We need to find out what happened, what was in them, before we can make a determination of what action to take," Mayo said.
Rorie said the ADEQ, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responded to the area to test and to extract the drums.
The Arkansas Department of Health had also been notified, he said.
A boil order for Clinton residents due to an increase in sediment levels issued last month was lifted a week ago.
"We know we’re having water issues and we are trying to find out the source," Rorie said. "We don’t have any idea. We’re not accusing anyone of anything."
He said Clinton Water Department customers need not be concerned about the city’s water supply at this time.
"They do not need to be worried at this time," he said. "The water that we’re putting out at the plant is good, safe drinking water. When we test and find anything abnormal, it doesn’t go into the clear well. Our water is perfectly safe."
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)