The drilling boom in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas has increased instances of illegal drilling waste hauling in the region, while some South Texas counties have seen highway fatalities skyrocket, blamed largely on increased commercial truck traffic.

Late last month in Jim Wells County, 21 people pleaded guilty to charges of illegal dumping, and eight others who were charged requested a trial. Nine others who were charged failed to appear in court and warrants were issued for their arrest, according to the Caller Times of Corpus Christi, TX.

The defendants were charged with the misdemeanor offenses of disposing of oil field waste on a public road and hauling without permits. Fines and court costs can range $400-800.

According to Hector Zertuche, the county’s environmental crimes officer, since a crackdown on illegal hauling the incidence of oily slicks on county roads has declined markedly.

Jim Wells County is a destination for trucks coming from the Eagle Ford because it’s home to Eco Mud Disposal, a facility where drilling mud can be disposed of. However, truckers heading for Jim Wells County are learning that leaky vehicles won’t be tolerated, Zertuche told the Caller Times.

Another Eagle Ford-related traffic issue plaguing some South Texas counties is high traffic in general, particularly truck traffic. In Karnes County, the sheriff told the San Antonio News that the county has seen 12 traffic fatalities in the last six months. That’s 12 times as many fatalities as were reported to the Texas Department of Transportation in 2008, which is when oil and gas drilling started to take off in the Eagle Ford, according to Karnes County Sheriff David Jalufka.

According to the newspaper, LaSalle County has seen a 418% increase in crashes involving commercial motor vehicles since 2008, and the increase in McMullen County has been 1,050% over the same period.

Heavy trucks hauling water for hydraulic fracturing operations or drilling waste to disposal sites have also been tearing up roads. In De Witt County, Daryl Fowler, county judge, said more state money collected as severance tax from drillers should be made available to repair roads in his county and others.

“Rural counties do not have limitless income potential just because the tax base is exploding,” Fowler said. He is recommending voluntary road use agreements with oil and gas companies coupled with fees to help offset the coast of road damage as well as reallocation of the oil and gas severance tax collected by the state (see Shale Daily, July 5).