Gas seep problem demands widespread testing
Natural gas found bubbling up in West Divide Creek three weeks ago is a sign of trouble underground.
Landowner Steve Thompson and his neighbors were justified in calling for help as soon as they spotted it.
The staff for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency charged with regulating the gas industry, was relatively quick in responding, as was Doug Dennison, Garfield County’s oil and gas auditor.
EnCana, the gas company operating in the Divide Creek area, has been slow and cautious in conceding its role in the underground leak. But to its credit, the company stopped work on all gas wells within a two-mile range of the bubbling creek.
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Now a host of tests are under way by state and county officials and by a consulting firm hired by EnCana to determine the extent of the gas contamination. They are sampling and analyzing Divide Creek water, domestic water wells in the area, and soil surrounding the trouble spot on Divide Creek.
These tests should be carried out to the fullest extent, and the results should be made public as soon as possible. People need to understand what has gone wrong and how such errors can be prevented as more gas wells are drilled in the area.
Similar testing should also be done in other parts of the county where gas drilling is occurring, not just in the mile or two near the Divide Creek trouble spot. Gas may be seeping up through dry ground elsewhere, without the telltale sign of bubbles.
At present, the remedy is unclear, since no one knows how widespread the problem is. But this situation is nothing to ignore. Contaminated aquifers and streams and gassy soils would ruin the area for people and for aquatic life.
As we have said before, gas companies like EnCana are making a bundle of money extracting a finite natural resource from western Garfield County. They are obligated to conduct drilling, completion and production operations in a safe and clean manner, even if those extra steps cut into their profits.
That’s what it means to be a good neighbor.
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