BLANCO COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Officials in Blanco County are sampling water from drinking wells after they say Permian Highway Pipeline construction workers “lost circulation” during the drilling process, causing drilling fluid to spread.

“There’s no doubt that’s what happened,” says Ron Fieseler, general manager of the Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District.

Fieseler says he received two reports from two well owners this week about muddy drinking water.

Teresa Albright says she first though the problem was in her own well. (Courtesy: Teresa Albright)

“Everything was normal until Sunday afternoon,” says Teresa Albright, a Blanco homeowner.

That’s when she turned on the faucet to find muddy, brown water.

When another neighbor said she had the same problem, neighbors reached out to Kinder Morgan, building the Permian Highway Pipeline just upstream in the Blanco River.

“People had to go to them and say, ‘Have you done something? Because we’re having this problem…’ And that’s when they found out,” Albright says.

That was Tuesday.

In a statement to KXAN, Kinder Morgan said the drilling incident happened on Saturday:

On Saturday, March 28, Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) experienced an underground drilling fluid loss during construction in Blanco County, Texas. The drilling fluid is comprised of bentonite clay and water. Bentonite is a naturally occurring, non-hazardous, non-toxic clay. We strive for zero incidents and minimal environmental impact on all our construction projects. At this time, drilling operations have been suspended while the team evaluates the cause of the loss and determines the best path forward. We are working with affected landowners to address their needs. We are also consulting with our Karst expert and the local Water District Manager to determine the best way to mitigate any current and future impacts. All of the appropriate regulatory agencies have been notified.

– Kinder Morgan

“Let them come over and pour themselves a glass of water and drink it for everybody to see how wonderful it is,” Albright says.

When KXAN asked whether or not crews hit karst, a spokesperson replied, “This is in an area with known Karst formations.”

Albright and her husband are doctors and say not having clean water during a pandemic is a huge problem.

“Washing clothes is imperative, you know, the minute we come home, we shed our clothes and we wash them,” she says.

That’s why, although Kinder Morgan says it has suspended construction for now, one Blanco city council member says that’s not enough.

“You need access to water to wash your hands, to stay safe. And they’ve endangered that so they need to stop operations until this pandemic is over,” says Matthew Lewis.

“We have warned Kinder Morgan repeatedly that we’re in a fragile ecosystem and this was a possibility. On some of the first drilling they already have contaminated our aquifer and local wells,” he says.

Fieseler says it is a “cosmetic problem,” and that the “wells will clear up after a while,” but he is still in the process of sampling wells.

He says right now, he doesn’t know how many neighbors are affected. He is scheduled to inspect 10 other wells over the next few days.

“We’re trying to identify which direction the lost fluids went,” he says.

In the meantime, Lewis and Albright say there needs to be more oversight as crews lay the 431-mile pipeline.

“How do I know that the next time something bad happens, they’re going to report it to everyone?” Albright says.