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Crews clean up after Stephens County oil well blast

Stephens County_Last week, a valve blowout on an oil well in Stephens County spewed oil into the air covering everything beneath it. On Monday, an environmental company is back on Rex Ross's property cleaning up for the seventh day.  While the company took Sunday off, crews were back at work trying to save plant life and clean up the ground for Ross's dogs.  "Each time it needed to go out to do its business, we had to give it a bath," said Ross.  "It had oil all over its paws, and all over its legs."

Ross says there was a thick mist of oil in the air there for fourteen hours, and vegetation absorbed it.  When squeezed, leaves would leave residue behind.  The oil also damaged his vegetable garden and fruit trees.  "It absolutely provided a lot of food, a lot of apples, a lot of pecans, and our local garden," he said.  "You can see they're mowing that down."  Even after some clean up oil is still soaked into the bark of some trees. 

The crew workers will be there for weeks, and must treat clean up as if they were insurance adjusters evaluating storm damage.  "You make your first pass, try to secure everything, and in time try to identify what needs to be repainted, replaced, or repaired," said Zenergy, Inc. Manager Keith Hill.  Holes had to be dug to test the ground, too.  "We take soil samples around all the dwellings and affected areas; just try to give us some background samples to see if there is any long-lasting, or potential problems," said Hill.

Despite all the cleaning that's been done, there is still a lingering reminder of that first day.  "The smell was atrocious," said Ross.  "It smelled like diesel fluid all over your land, all over the house, all over the vehicles, all over your clothing when you were outside.  It's not as bad as it was but it still smells bad, and that, the camera doesn't show." 

Ross says he hopes nothing toxic is in the air, but he still wants a report on the chemicals the well spewed.  Hill says they began the clean up with about 30 workers, and are down to about a dozen.  Once clean up is complete, they will continue weekly monitoring through next spring and summer.
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