Benzene level up in Parachute Creek |

Benzene level up in Parachute Creek

PARACHUTE — The level of the toxic compound benzene in Parachute Creek on Wednesday exceeded Colorado’s safe drinking water standard for the first time in more than three weeks of testing, state health officials reported on Thursday.

State and federal agencies have been overseeing a massive cleanup effort on the creek that began on March 8.

That is when a plume of hydrocarbons was found to have leaked from a faulty pressure gauge on a pipeline leading from a Williams Midstream natural gas processing plant about four miles up the creek from the Town of Parachute.

According to a statement issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) on Thursday, benzene was detected at 5.3 parts per billion (ppb) in samples taken from a point downstream of a leaky valve on a pipeline carrying natural gas liquids.

The safe drinking water standard is 5 ppb for benzene, which is a known carcinogen associated with oil and gas development activities.

Previous test results have been well below the 5 ppb level.

Health department spokesman Mark Salley noted that Parachute Creek is not a source of drinking water for the Town of Parachute, although there are domestic water wells on private property adjacent to the creek.

The allowable levels of benzene for a non-drinking-water creek is 5,300 ppb, which Salley said is for protection of aquatic life in the creek.

Officials with the CDPHE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have promised to monitor the creek until it is clear of contaminants from the natural gas activities located there.

In addition, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is looking into complaints from workers at the plume site, who say they were forced to work without the proper protective gear and who fear they may have been poisoned while on the job.

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