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December 31, 2013
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2013 #5: Parachute Creek 'plume' spills hydrocarbons into environment

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — In mid-March state and industry officials confirmed that a hydrocarbon spill had taken place about four miles north of Parachute on Parachute Creek, leaking an unknown amount of natural gas drilling byproducts onto the ground.

By late March, Williams Midstream work crews announced they believed they had located the leak in an above-ground valve in a 4-inch pipeline attached to a nearby gas processing plant.

By the end of March, officials detected benzene in the spreading plume of chemical compounds at the spill site. In high enough concentrations, benzene is considered carcinogenic.

In early April, tests had found benzene in monitoring wells 10 feet from the leak site. Officials revealed on April 8 that tests had shown contamination from the leaking valve had been detected on both sides of Parachute Creek below the spill site.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration was reported to be looking into reports that some of the workers believed they had been contaminated by working without proper protective gear at the spill site. It also was revealed that trace amounts of benzene had been detected in the creek.

During the ensuing weeks, as Williams worked to excavate and remove the contaminated soils, reports from monitoring agencies including the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission showed that concentrations of benzene in the ground and the water were declining.

On Sept. 18, state regulators announced a finding that Bargath LLC, a pipeline company working with Williams Midstream, violated environmental regulations by releasing hazardous materials into the environment without a permit. Regulators decided that about 10,000 gallons of the compounds had reached the ground as a result of the spill.

No fines were assessed against Bargath, though the company was ordered to pay $8,400 to reimburse COGCC staff for time spent working on the matter.

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 2, 2014 04:15PM Published Dec 31, 2013 07:52PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.