THE Houston Chronicle has reported that workers with Houston-based EOTT Energy are sorting through 190 boxes of documents that were unearthed recently at the site of an old oil spill near Hobbs, New Mexico. The boxes, which were buried at a depth of around 15m nearby the eastern New Mexico community, appear to be filled with documents related to the operation of a pipeline EOTT acquired in 1999. They include environmental records, payroll information, and accounting paper work, according to company spokeswoman Gretchen Weis.
The documents are mouldy and in a fragile condition, Weis said, so the company is searching for refrigerated trucks to store them in to stop the spread of the mould. “We’re going to consult with document restoration experts but have them stored in an air conditioned space for now,” she said.
EOTT was formerly a subsidiary of bankrupt Enron Corp. The company began excavating for the documents after an ex-employee for the pipeline’s former owner said missing records had been buried at the site in 2001 while soil was being removed due to an oil spill. An attorney for EOTT said a number of documents were missing when it purchased the pipeline in from Texas-New Mexico Pipeline Co. The papers are clearly Texas-New Mexico Pipeline records, Weis said, but it is not yet clear why the documents were hidden. EOTT officials said they didn’t believe there were laws requiring companies to maintain pipeline operational records, so it’s not clear if the document burials would be considered a criminal act. The documents could include records of oil spill remediation efforts, soil contamination reports, groundwater level studies, and other documents relating to the day-to-day operation of the pipeline.