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Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

In this June 2021 photo provided by rancher Ashley Williams Watt, the Estes 24 well leaks on the Antina ranch near Crane, Texas. Chevron, which is responsible for the abandoned well, has been working to re-plug it. Buried under the sand, it became unplugged and started leaking produced water, a byproduct of oil production that is considered a toxic substance. The rancher's biggest worry is that it will get into her drinking water supply and the watershed, which flows into the nearby Pecos River. (Ashley Williams Watt via AP)

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

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An oil well worker helps to re-plug an abandoned well on the ranch of Ashley Williams Watt, Friday, July 9, 2021, near Crane, Texas. The wells on Watt's property seem to be unplugging themselves. Some are leaking dangerous chemicals into the ground, which are seeping into her cattle's drinking water. And she doesn't know how long it's been going on. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

  • Updated

Ashley Williams Watt looks at a flag Friday, July 9, 2021, near Crane, Texas, marking a spot where soil samples were taken at her ranch by one of the biggest spills she's found. She calls it the "elephant graveyard," named for a barren wasteland in the movie "The Lion King." Rather than hulking animal bones, her version of the graveyard contains the blackened skeletons of mesquite trees. The sand there is dark and reeks of oil. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

  • Updated

Brine-covered soil cracks as it dries in the hot sun on Ashley Williams Watt's cattle ranch Friday, July 9, 2021, near Crane, Texas. The disaster unfolding on Watt's ranch offers a window into a growing problem for the oil industry and the communities and governments who are often left to clean up the mess. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

  • Updated

In this undated family photo provided by the Watt Family, Mary Williams Watt rides a horse on one of their ranch properties in west Texas. Watt died in 2018 following a diagnosis of adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare cancer that affects the glands associated with the kidneys. Though not able to prove it, Watt's daughter, Ashley, wonders if toxic substances from abandoned oil wells on the property contributed to her mother's death. (Watt Family via AP)

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

  • Updated

In this undated historical image provided by the University of Southern California library, people enjoy the beach in front of an oil field in Playa del Rey, Calif. There are 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. About a third were plugged with cement, which is considered the proper way to prevent harmful chemical leaks. But most, about 2.1 million by the EPA's count, haven't been plugged at all. (USC via AP)

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

  • Updated

A well worker moves equipment at a site on Molly Rooke's ranch where an orphaned well was plugged, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, near Refugio, Texas. Oil and gas drilling began on the ranch in the 1920s and there were dozens of orphaned wells that needed to be plugged for safety and environmental protection. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

  • Updated

Cattle graze near aging oil storage tanks on the Rooke family ranch, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, near Refugio, Texas. Oil and gas drilling began on the ranch in the 1920s and there were dozens of orphaned wells that needed to be plugged for safety and environmental protection. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

  • Updated

Ashley Williams Watt walks across the site of an abandoned well at her ranch, Friday, July 9, 2021, near Crane, Texas. Some of her wells are leaking chemicals such as benzene, a known carcinogen, into fields and drinking water. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking
AP

Forgotten Wells Unplugged and Leaking

  • Updated

An oil well worker moves equipment at a site on the Rooke family ranch where an orphaned well was plugged, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, near Refugio, Texas. There are 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. About a third were plugged with cement, which is considered the proper way to prevent harmful chemical leaks. But most, about 2.1 million by the EPA's count, haven't been plugged at all. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)