Marathon responsible for pit spill near Parachute |

Marathon responsible for pit spill near Parachute

Phillip Yates
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE, Colorado ” Marathon Oil Co. on Tuesday identified itself as one of two companies involved in four large storage pit spills from November to February.

Marathon said it was responsible for one 30,000-barrel water release from a water pit; however, the leak near Garden Gulch did not contain industrial drilling mud, as was initially reported by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The second company has yet to be identified by the COGCC, but a spokesman for Berry Petroleum Co. said on Tuesday the company was conducting its own internal investigation in the wake of a COGCC announcement that it was looking into the four large spills on private lands on the Roan Plateau.

Todd Crabtree, a spokesman for the company, said once that investigation is complete, the company will be prepared to make a formal statement.

Marathon said it did not anticipate “any negative impact on the environment as a result of the water release” from the 30,000-barrel water leak.

It has contracted with an engineering firm to assist in evaluation and monitoring of the spill.

The company said it also plans to continue “monitoring and sampling at nearby Parachute Creek throughout the snow and ice melt period.”

A second company reported a second release immediately. However, that same company failed to report two other releases. The volume of those releases has not yet been determined, and the COGCC said it would not reveal the name of that company until its investigation is complete.

The agency is withholding at least 80 drilling applications near Garden Gulch until the issue is resolved.

Deb Frazier, a spokeswoman for the COGCC, said the agency is working to determine the volume of the spills and their chemical composition.

“We are pleased (Marathon) reported the problem as quickly as possible,” Frazier said.

Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW), said the agency is working with the COGCC in its investigation of the spills. A concern for the DOW is that when snows begin to melt, which could happen soon, chemicals from the spills could melt and run off into Parachute Creek ” and potentially into the Colorado River.

Marathon said its 30,000-barrel leak occurred on Jan. 31 when a storage pit at one its sites had a drop in water level. The company immediately reported the release to the COGCC, and has “cooperated fully in (its) review of the matter,” the company said in a statement.

An inspection of the release led the company to determine that “a high impermeable high-density polymer liner experienced a seam failure, which allowed the water to escape the storage pit.” The cause of the liner’s failure remains unknown, and the company is investigating the matter further with the COGCC. During the agency’s review of the leak, it noted that Marathon used “a liner that was twice the thickness usually required for pits,” the company said.

The spilled water was from a freshwater source in the Parachute Valley and was used one time. It was stored in a pit as part of the company’s water conservation efforts, the company said. Marathon workers were to recycle the water back into the drilling process. The company said the water “has never been in contact with drilling mud.”

Scott Scheffler, a spokesman for Marathon, said the company has two drilling rigs in the Garden Gulch area. The company has four producing wells in the area. Five other wells are awaiting completion, he said.

Chevron is the owner of both the surface and the minerals where the release occurred, Scheffler said.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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