The first known oil well in Oklahoma happened by accident. It was 1859 and Lewis Ross was actually drilling for saltwater (brine), not oil. Brine was highly valued at the time for the salt that could be used to preserve meat. As Ross drilled deeper for brine, he hit oil. And people have been drilling for oil in Oklahoma ever since.
Lewis Ross might find today's drilling landscape in the Sooner State somewhat ironic. The oil and gas industry, which has surging production due to horizontal drilling and fracking, is pumping out huge volumes of oil but even more brine. So much brine, in fact, that the fracking industry needs a way to dispose of the brine, or “produced water,” that comes out of oil and gas wells because it isn't suitable for curing meats. In addition to salts, these wastewaters can contain naturally occurring radioactive elements and heavy metals.
But the industry's preferred approaches for disposing of fracking wastewater — pumping it underground in either deep or shallow injection wells for long-term storage — both come with serious risks for nearby communities.