Guest Commentary |

Guest Commentary

Marion Wells
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Information about a Blac Frac spill was requested from EAB in November 2008. I was told NOAV (notice of alleged violation) locations under investigation couldn’t be disclosed. Spill details weren’t requested, simply location. When an EAB member stated in November 2009 all industry representatives agreed they’d be “happy” to disclose locations of incidents, I again asked the location and was again given the same answer. However, the answer is wrong. Location is public record.

Go to then database then inspection/incident. Enter County Code 045, expand the search to 1000 records then look through the NOAV’s, Complaints and Spills/Releases. However, the Blac Frac spill isn’t on either list, demonstrating there’s more happenings than you can find online. A concerted effort found the two reports.

Blac Frac’s spill isn’t only an NOAV, it’s also a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) case. Both cite difficulty in getting information from Williams compliance agents. The NOAV states Williams didn’t respond with the location or what was released. The CDPHE report does. The last entry, dated 17 Oct. 08, gives a detailed record of the location, by pad, road intersection, gps, landowner. After a quick look at the map available on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) database, the question is answered. It’s on Clough property just north of the West Rifle Interchange, a quarter-mile south of RWF 424-11 and 30′ east of its access road.

Blac Frac’s driver picked up production water (categorized as hazardous because of oil/BTEX contaminants) from the well pad, drove a quarter-mile then turned left 30′ on a seldom-used 2-lane road, backed up to the edge of a dry gully and opened his valve discharging the 50 bbl (2750 gal, 22900 lbs.) (NOAV stated 80 bbl, 4400 gal) of flowback liquids and condensate affecting 2700′ flowing toward the Colorado River. The driver said he thought it was stormwater. There were eyewitnesses. This was intentional. The consequence? “Training” to emphasize drivers go from point A to point B, no exceptions; to do otherwise is illegal and criminal. “Review” by Williams of its 2006 Spill Prevention and Response Plan.

This was a despicable act with insufficient consequence to prevent reoccurrence. It still happens. Production water and hot shot mud has been released on roads before my eyes. Look on the website, read the papers. Recently, a large spill with condensate occurred near Parachute into a stream that flows into the Colorado.

Which brings it back to the original issue: stonewalling by EAB members in answering questions from its members and citizens. The February meeting’s conflict resolution trainer observed the lack of response by the board during meetings, noting it leaves citizens thinking they weren’t heard. It also indicates to citizens that resolution isn’t part of the agenda. Since the COGCC/CDPHE information was public record in 2008, why the subterfuge? One of the purportedly effective tools in EAB is peer pressure to respond and resolve. Where were the industry peers or the county? And there are other unanswered questions before the EAB.

Marion Wells


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