Williams runoff prevention goes above and beyond mandates
One of Garfield County’s largest natural gas producers is making an investment in the environment. In the last six months, Williams has spent $1 million on storm-water runoff prevention measures in its natural gas fields, said senior environmental specialist Rob Bleil.Williams, which produces about 450 million cubic feet of gas a day, has an overall plan to deal with water running off well pads and roads, a plan that goes beyond what is mandated by state and federal regulations.Since joining the company in the summer of 2005, Bleil has installed coded wooden stakes in areas of the gas fields needing attention. Contractors who do reclamation and erosion control work for the company are equipped with Williams’ new handbook on storm-water runoff and best management practices. So if they see a stake in the ground, they can look up the code for what is needed, then page to a section that has instructions on how to install specific erosion control devices, Bleil said.”We used to get calls from BLM (Bureau of Land Management), OGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission)” about problems in the field. “They’re getting used to seeing the stakes, and the calls have been reduced by 75 percent,” he said. “When they see the stakes, they know we’re on top of it.”On a trip up Cottonwood Creek a few miles east of Parachute, Bleil pointed out the various measures Williams has taken to prevent water from running off roads and well pads into the strongly running creek.On one well pad where drilling was completed about a month ago, straw is being spread across the two-acre site to cover newly seeded ground.Williams has also installed eight 4-foot storm culverts wherever the road crosses the creek. “This road does not fall under the storm-water regs,” he said, because it was constructed by the Department of Energy in the early days of the oil shale boom in 1974.”Basically our goal is zero percent net discharge” of sediment from their operations, which is “nothing above what is naturally occurring,” he said.To prevent water from entering the creek, Bleil has had crews place straw bales alongside it at strategic intervals. Water can flow through them but they filter out sediment.On a well pad just above the creekbed, crews have constructed a ditch across a slope of bare dirt to direct water away from the wells. The idea, Bleil said, is to funnel water to a “pinch point” where it can be filtered through straw bales or rolls of straw contained in biodegradable netting, called wattles.The pad, which is about two and a half acres in size, is surrounded on the creek side by silt fencing – black plastic sheeting which acts as a barrier to sediment flow – and two courses of wattles.”We wouldn’t be this aggressive if we weren’t this close to live water,” he said.At another well pad, reclamation crews have lined a shallow ditch with flat rocks to channel water.All these measures – straw bales and wattles, culverts, rock ditches – come under a much used phrase called “best management practices.” Although not specifically required by state and federal regulations, they constitute the favored means of preventing water erosion from man-made structures.”We don’t commit to specific best management practices,” Bleil said, but to an overall storm-water management plan for an entire field. Specific practices are applied as needed.Once a well pad has been seeded with grass, “within a year you’ll have cover,” he said.In addition, Williams also recently hired four field inspectors who make sure the reclamation contractors are complying with the storm-water mitigation plan. Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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