The Tidwell well is a gas well directly south of the Magnolia Creek subdivision that has been operating since March. In October, the well’s operator, Lynn Watkins, requested a variance to a city ordinance that requires the gas lines be odorized.
Odorizing a gas line is the process by which odors are added to gas so leaks can be detected by smell, making any leaks easier for neighbors to detect and report. Instead of odorizing the gas, Watkins’ proposal was to set up a system with several safeguards in place that automatically and instantly cut off valves and stop the flow of gas should a leak or other problem ever occur.
The council debated about the safety of odorization compared to the proposed shutoff system. A drilling and gas well consultant the city hired said he believes the shutoff system is safer. If he lived near the well, the consultant said he would prefer the shutoff system because it instantly stops the well in case of a leak whereas odorization merely informs anyone within smelling distance that a leak is occurring.
After hearing more information, Council Member Greg Gripon and others agreed.
“I definitely feel much safer knowing the system will be shut down immediately,” Gripon said.
Not all were convinced, however; Council Member Todd Kinsey was the sole member to vote against the variance, saying he has been against the well every year he has been on council. If the well operator truly cared about the safety of neighbors, the company would put in every safety measure possible, including both the shutoff system and the odorization, Kinsey said.
The council in April 2016 and July 2017 granted the well about 25 variances.
“It just baffles me that [the well operator] is trying to get a variance to almost everything that our ordinance spells out,” Kinsey said.