Jennifer Hiller | The San Antonio Express-News
San Antonio — The mystery of a nine-mile truck spill that closed two Karnes County roads in March may have been solved — by a game camera.
An oil-field truck lost its load along two roads in Karnes County in the early morning hours of March 10, closing much of FM 81 and FM 1144 for days. The truck trailed the liquid across nine miles and left the scene.
“We had some angry, angry people in Karnes County because of that,” said Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva.
The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, said the Karnes County Sheriff’s Department identified the truck as belonging to On Point Services LLC, but that the company denies the allegations.
“Railroad Commission staff in the Oil & Gas District Office in San Antonio is currently evaluating enforcement referral for the incident,” said Railroad Commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye by email. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’ environmental agency, is also investigating the spill.
A phone message with On Point Services LLC in Falfurrias was not returned.
Villanueva declined to talk about the trucking company, but did provide some details about the investigation.
Deputies with the sheriff’s department spent a full day — from around 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. — sweeping down both FM roads to talk with residents. One property owner had a game camera that caught a black-and-white image of the truck, he said, and let the deputies download the video.
“When this happened I never thought we would have cleared it,” Villanueva said. “I was amazed. Everything came together.”
Game cameras are common across South Texas’ hunting ranches, but are also used sometimes at ranch gates or homes for security.
The Texas Department of Transportation originally said the spilled liquid was oil, but Nye said the type of fluid spilled is still “undetermined.”
Villanueva isn’t sure what the spilled material was either.
“To me oil is oil. It’s black stuff,” he said. “It was kind of like a red-orange, then a dark gray after it sat there, like what transmission fluid used to look like.”
San Antonio’s SWS Environmental Services cleaned up the spill, a process that TxDOT’s Corpus Christi office said involved applying sand to the road to absorb the liquid, sweeping it into piles, vacuuming it up and putting it into containers for disposal.
FM 81 reopened after two days, and FM 1144 reopened after three days.
Karnes County is at the heart of the Eagle Ford Shale field and is the state’s top producer of crude oil. Last year, the county yielded up more than 56 million barrels of oil, which are often transported by truck.
“Every day we see an oil spill, like a streak of it,” Villanueva said. “This was miles of it.”