Commissioners agree to ask for soil sampling near alleged seep south of Silt
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Garfield County commissioners on Monday agreed to request that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission take additional samples of mud and sand near an area where a Silt-area resident thinks there may be a new gas seep.Lisa Bracken, who lives south of Silt, appeared before the commissioners on Monday to request that commissioners help her obtain groundwater testing after she discovered an orange and black “gunk” reportedly seeping into West Divide Creek on June 28.Commissioners agreed to ask the COGCC, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, to conduct additional sampling in the area. But they did not move forward on Bracken’s groundwater request.Commissioner John Martin said water in the area has been tested more than 60 times, and that there is current ongoing water sampling conducted by EnCana Oil & Gas (USA). He said that the Colorado Division of Wildlife is also conducting sampling in the area, and that the Environmental Protection Agency is looking into the reports of the alleged seep.”We will do everything to make sure the area is safe for all residents,” Martin said. Bracken said she left Monday’s meeting under the impression that commissioners would ask for mud and sand sampling, “but what needs to be sampled is the groundwater. “If we could have one sampling, it would be the groundwater,” she said.Commissioner Tresi Houpt recused herself from discussion of Bracken’s groundwater sampling request because of her role as a COGCC commissioner.In a letter to Dave Neslin, the acting director of the COGCC, Bracken described that gunk she found in June as “iron-reducing microbial colonies.” She said that is indicative of hydrocarbons in the area.”This is where we get our water,” Bracken told commissioners, adding the Environmental Protection Agency is set to look into the matter. “This where Silt and Rifle gets its water.”Bracken added that she also observed “a corrosive-looking substance emerging primarily in areas behind the black seep,” according to her letter. She said the substance is acting to corrode and “deteriorate the sandstone boulders, as well as vegetative matter it came into contact with.”Bracken has said what is developing in the area is similar to a 2004 gas seep in the creek. In that incident, hydrocarbons and benzene, a known carcinogen, infiltrated the creek.The COGCC fined EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) more than $300,000 for the seep. The company now is about halfway through a program to drill 41 wells in the vicinity of the seep and Bracken’s land.The area of the reported seep extends about 60 feet along the bank of the creek and about 30 feet toward the cliff to the north, Bracken wrote. She added that EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) is the nearest operators in the area.Sherry Long, a spokeswoman for EnCana, said the company has found no connection between its current drilling and Bracken’s report of a new seep. She said the company will follow any request the COGCC may put out for additional sampling in the area. COGCC staff collected six vials from West Divide’s surface water to test for volatile organic (VOC) compounds like benzene. Staff also collected one soil sample to test for diesel range organics, which are oil-related compounds. But Bracken criticized the agency for not sampling for compounds like benzene in that soil sample.The agency has said its results found no anomalies with either VOC compounds or the diesel range organics. The state’s sampling noted a result of 9.9 kilograms for diesel range organics and a reporting limit of 5.6 kilograms.Bracken, in her letter, said the presence of diesel range organics was a “disturbing finding,” but that the COGCC did not conduct additional analysis.The agency has said earlier it doesn’t consider the presence of diesel range organics an issue until staff “see readings in the many hundreds or thousands.” Debbie Baldwin, an environmental manager for the COGCC, said the small spikes of diesel range organics found in the sample “are probably the organic material you find in the soil.”Bracken has been journaling her experiences at http://www.journeyoftheforsaken.com.Citizen Telegram reporter Mike McKibben contributed to this report.Contact Phillip Yates: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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