PARACHUTE, Colorado - Investigators say a failed pressure gauge is the source of a hydrocarbon leak near Parachute Creek, which is believed to have created a plume of potentially deadly chemicals in the soils near the creek.
In a release issued late Wednesday, the Williams Midstream pipeline company attributed the find to "preliminary analysis of meter data," and said the leak was stopped on Jan. 3 after it was discovered.
Williams crews have been working to locate the leak, determine the size of the plume and keep chemicals out of Parachute Creek since March 8, when the plume was discovered by Williams workers.
The leaky gauge was part of a "valve set" on a four-inch natural gas liquids line that leads from a nearby natural gas processing plant to a tank farm on the other side of Parachute Creek.
The company believes the leak began on Dec. 20, 2012, and estimates that "about 80 percent of the leaked volumes [of liquids] vaporized before entering the soil."
The company statement on the leak estimates that approximately 241 barrels (about 10,000 gallons) of natural gas liquids soaked into the soil, of which about 143 barrels (or roughly 6,000 gallons) has been recovered.
Benzene, a known carcinogen linked to oil and gas development, has been detected as much as 1,000 feet from the valve site. Williams's statement indicated that it is not certain whether the benzene is related to the leaky valve.
According to the statement, tests continue to indicate the creek itself has not been contaminated by the leak.
Water testing and other work to determine the extent of the hydrocarbon plume and to protect Parachute Creek will continue, the company stated.