Monitoring wells will be last phase of Mamm Creek study
SILT, Colorado – The final phase of a study to determine the extent of methane gas contamination in domestic water wells in the Mamm Creek area will involve the drilling of several long-term monitoring wells by Garfield County.
County commissioners this week approved a $199,879 contract for GeoTrans, Inc. to complete the Phase III Hydrogeological Study of the Mamm Creek area southwest of Silt.
The first two phases of the study were paid for out of a $371,200 Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission fine against EnCana Oil and Gas in 2004, after gas and benzene seeped to the surface in the Divide Creek area.
The final phase of the study will be paid for by the county, said Judy Jordan, Garfield County oil and gas industry liaison.
“The fine money was pretty much all used up on the first two phases, so the county is covering the cost of the final phase” Jordan said.
“The intent is to be able to put in wells that we can access and monitor in the future, instead of using homeowners existing wells,” she said.
However, the county and GeoTrans will need to work with private landowners in the area to be able to gain access to monitoring well sites. Jordan said the county hopes to begin the work this fall.
Since 2004, the county has been conducting a study that finds that there is methane showing up in local domestic wells in the Mamm Creek area that may be the result of gas drilling in the area. More than 1,700 natural gas wells are currently operating in the area, with the potential for up to 7,000 wells in the coming years.
The study indicates that “thermagenic” methane and chloride have been infiltrating wells in the area at an increasing rate over the last seven years, a period that coincides with stepped up intensity in drilling activities around the county.
“Thermagenic,” Jordan explained to the Post Independent in July, means methane that comes from sources deep in the ground and is geologic in nature, rather than newer pockets of gas at shallow depths that is formed by recent biological processes.
The presence of such gases could be an indication that drilling activities are in some way the cause, although she said the COGCC may not agree with that interpretation.
Neither gas has been found at levels that would trigger regulatory action, the study states, although indications are that the levels are rising and that the chloride could soon reach a threshold that warrants government intervention.
The main hazard from the methane, Jordan said, is that it could accumulate in water tanks or, if it is being vented into the atmosphere, in low-lying areas close to the ground, and be ignited by an errant spark.
Jordan has recommended more detailed study and monitoring than what is now planned, however funds are not available at this time.
The Mamm Creek Hydrogeologic Study is available for public viewing on the Garfield County website (www.garfield-county.com), in the “oil and gas” submenu under County Departments.
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