Bucket Brigade gets a second wind in Battlement Mesa
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PARACHUTE, Colorado – Residents of Battlement Mesa are once again putting together a Bucket Brigade of citizen air-quality guardians to keep an eye on emissions from nearby gas drilling activities.
The low-tech, air-quality monitoring device deployed by the brigade in 2011 was the first to detect the presence in this area of hydrogen sulfide, a toxic and potentially fatal gas sometimes associated with gas drilling activities.
Battlement Mesa resident Dave Devanney said the renewal of the brigade is not linked to an ongoing investigation into a suspected natural gas spill along Parachute Creek, about four miles north of the town of Parachute.
“We just want to be prepared for any eventuality,” said Devanney, a member of the Battlement Concerned Citizens, the organization that first brought the Bucket Brigade to this area in 2010.
Battlement Mesa is an unincorporated community of approximately 5,000, just across the Colorado River from the town of Parachute in Western Garfield County.
Devanney said the chief reason he wanted to revive the bucket brigade is the fact that a new drilling company, Ursa, last year bought the natural gas leases once held by Antero Resources.
Antero, before selling its leases to Ursa, was planning to drill up to 200 natural gas wells, from nine different well pads, in or around the Battlement Mesa community.
Ursa spokesman Don Simpson has said his company has no immediate plans to drill any new wells around Battlement Mesa.
But, he said, the company is planning on conducting “workover” operations on existing wells, which could involve clearing blockages from the well bores or other techniques to improve the flow of natural gas.
Devanney noted that one Antero well in particular, the Watson Ranch well just outside the Battlement Mesa community boundary, started emanating noxious fumes in 2010 and prompted the founding of a local bucket brigade.
“Those that remember the fumes from the fracking of the Watson Ranch well pad in July of 2010 can understand the need to be prepared,” Devanney wrote in an email sent out to former and prospective bucket brigade members.
The Bucket Brigade, a program of the Global Community Monitor (GCM) organization in California, is a low-tech method of gathering air samples that can be analyzed at GCM labs.
The “bucket” is a canister with which brigade members take air samples, seal them up and ship them off to GCM for analysis.
Although the brigade has not been active recently in Garfield County, in 2011 Devanney’s group gathered samples of the air on Silt Mesa, near the home of the Strudley family, and detected high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas.
The bucket sample collected at the Strudleys, according to GCM, showed hydrogen sulfide at 185 times the level set by the Environmental Protection Agency for long-term serious health risks.
The family, complaining of numerous symptoms of ill health, was forced to move out of their home in 2011 and filed a lawsuit against Antero Resources. A judge dismissed their suit in May 2012, but the family said they would appeal the decision.
Initially, industry officials and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission denied that there could possibly be hydrogen sulfide in the gas fields of Garfield County.
But the chemical compound later began turning up in a number of wells around the area, sometimes at lethal levels, which Bucket Brigade adherents took as corroboration of their findings.
The training is scheduled for 9 a.m. on April 12 at the Grand Valley Recreation Center (formerly the Battlement Mesa Activity Center), 0398 Arroyo Drive, in Battlement Mesa.
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The town would join Aspen and Glenwood Springs in prohibiting flavored tobacco sales and licensing retailers.