West Divide Creek resident says water contamination continues
SILT, Colorado – Chemicals in the water continue to plague residents of the West Divide Creek area south of Silt, claims a woman who has been coping with the issue for years and blames the problem on the gas drilling industry.Her complaints, contained in an email sent to Garfield County officials recently, were forwarded by the board of county commissioners to the state agency in charge of overseeing the natural gas industry in Colorado.Lisa Bracken has argued since mid-2008 that chemical compounds have seen seeping from natural gas formations, breached by drilling operations that began in 2004, into West Divide Creek and possibly into ground water in the area.In 2004, a seep sent hydrocarbons, such as cancer-causing benzene, into the creek from an improperly completed nearby gas well. EnCana Oil & Gas USA was fined more than $300,000 for the violation of state regulations in the incident.In addition, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission [COGCC] imposed a moratorium on drilling in the area for roughly a year, until government and industry officials agreed it should be lifted.In a letter to the BOCC dated March 30, Bracken wrote that two gas operators – EnCana Oil and Gas, USA and Bill Barrett Corp. – in February of this year “self reported” the appearance of “hydrocarbons” in two domestic water wells in her neighborhood.Judy Jordan, the county’s oil and gas liaison, said the COGCC has already begun an investigation into the reports from the gas companies.Jordan also said the initial findings indicate that the hydrocarbons found in the two wells are “thermogenic methane,” which characteristically is found in rock formations deep underground, far deeper than typical domestic water sources.The two wells, Bracken wrote to the BOCC, are on private property located on either side of her own land, “in near proximity to a linear fault path implicated in the … 2004 seep events.”Bracken wrote that a 2008 seep, as well as gas drilling activity that she maintains contributed to the 2008 seep, “remain largely uninvestigated by the COGCC” despite a pledge to probe the issue once the moratorium was lifted.She expressed disappointment that the county has not pressed harder for more scientific studies of the matter, “despite assurances from [Commissioner John] Martin that the county would act immediately” to get answers about the potential for ground water contamination.She asked the board to support her in calling for renewal of a drilling moratorium, which she said is necessary in order to conduct a thorough study of the hydrology and geology of the West Divide Creek area.”For the COGCC to continue to allow drilling under these circumstances is nothing less than egregious negligence which places the health and safety of residents of this area at unnecessary risk,” she declared.Commissioner Mike Samson, well aware of Bracken’s concerns, expressed some irritation of his own with the state regulatory agency.He noted that the county has pressed the COGCC for answers about West Divide “and we still haven’t gotten a response.”It was Samson’s motion, seconded by Martin, to send Bracken’s message on to the COGCC, along with a demand that “the COGCC take this up post haste and get an answer back to us.”Commissioner Trsi Houpt, who serves on the COGCC board of directors and recused herself from the discussion, seemed concerned about the message to the state, and asked if the county is taking a specific position on the matter.”We’ve requested an answer,” replied Martin firstname.lastname@example.org
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According to a study, the “worst-case” conditions for people living within 2,000 feet of oil and gas well sites typically occur during the pre-production stage of well development, not after the wells are in production.