Firm studies oil and gas effects on water
A Denver environmental firm is looking at surface- and groundwater south of Silt and Rifle to determine potential effects of oil and gas drilling. URS was contracted by Garfield County to conduct the first phase of the study that will look at water-well quality, data from gas-well drilling and geologic features such as natural faults in a 110-square-mile area including West Divide Creek where gas from an EnCana well seeped into the creek. EnCana was fined $371,000 by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for the seep. That money will be used to pay for the study. Mark Leverson, a geologist with URS, said the study will analyze existing data from gas wells and water quality tests of domestic water wells in an area drained by Mamm, Dry Hollow and Divide creeks.”We don’t have any answers because we haven’t done the study yet,” Leverson said. However, he added that the intent of the study is to determine if there are any areas where gas drilling is having an effect on domestic water.The study will focus on the Wasatch Formation that extends from the surface to about 2,000 feet underground. Most of the water wells in the area are drilled into this formation of claystone interlaced with sandstone, Leverson said.”The water quality of the Wasatch is reportedly not very good,” he said.Among the potential contaminants the company will look for in water quality data are dissolved salts, sulfates, hydrocarbons such as toxic benzene and toluene, and gases such as butane and methane which can be naturally occurring or produced from gas wells deeper underground.Bob Utesch, who lives in the Dry Hollow area south of Silt, asked how the data would be used.”Is this just eye candy?” he said.Information about water quality in the Wasatch Formation as well as data about gas-well drilling could be applicable in other areas, Leverson said.”There was a catastrophic event on West Divide Creek,” said Debbie Baldwin, of the COGCC. “We focused on (that area) because of people’s concerns. I wouldn’t say this is eye candy. This is a serious scientific study of that area.””I think there will be a lot of uses for the information,” Dennison added. County land planners could use it in deciding whether or not to allow future housing developments in that or adjacent areas, if water quality problems are identified in the study.Both Dennison and Baldwin also said they hope that money can be found to broaden the study area, or conduct similar studies in other parts of the state.The first phase of the study will be completed by the end of the year. The second phase is scheduled for 2006 and could include further well sampling and collection of related data, Leverson said.
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