Still Seeping After All These Years

I’ve been thinking about the Salon.com article EPA to citizens: Frack you. It doesn’t really surprise me that the impact of gas well drilling in the Rockies is getting some national attention. A lot of shit has gone down over the past 3 months, most of which I’ve covered here. Problem is, it’s not easy to find information.

In my February 23 blog entry As Silt Seeps, I told the story about the 2004 West Divide Creek seep, for which Encana was fined $371,000. A New West article covered the recent Encana fines (which I covered Monday in my Back to the Future Update). The writer also revisited the West Divide Creek seep issue.

Gas and Water Mix in Colorado’s Gas Patch
By David Frey

When natural gas wells started popping up amid western Colorado ranches, industry officials assured residents their water wells would be safe. Residents soon found out differently, and on Monday, a state hearing showed just how differently …

… Meanwhile, EnCana and another company, Bill Barrett Corp., had planned to ask the OGCC for permission to drill within a moratorium area, but at the last minute, the two companies withdrew their request.

Why? Well tests within the moratorium area showed pressure problems, said Director Brian Macke. That suggested that the highly-fractured underground rock layers are making it hard for energy companies to case the wells with cement and prevent gas from escaping into the groundwater.

At the same meeting, the OGCC unveiled a new study of the area south of Silt and Rifle that backs up those findings. The study of the underground geology and groundwater in the region found that the area’s unusual geology could make it easier for natural gas to enter neighbors’ water wells.

In one case, the study said, a well was capped in 1994 after leaking to the surface for nearly 30 years.

The findings backed the concerns of landowners and environmentalists who have worried that the gas industry is threatening well water in the area …

… Two years later, the seep is still bubbling, said landowner Pepi Langegger, and the place is still too dangerous to drill.

“They have the right to access the minerals under our land, but not at any cost,” he said.

After the seep was discovered, OGCC barred EnCana from drilling within a three-mile area, but it later allowed Barrett to drill. On Monday, Barrett planned to seek permission to drill more wells, and EnCana planned to ask commissioners to lift the moratorium altogether …

Oh Encana. Your wish is the wiley old Fox’s (COGCC) command. On April 24, the moratorium on drilling in the West Divide Creek seep area was lifted, without regard for the findings of the study on geologic sensitivity.

COGCC lifts drilling moratorium south of Silt
by Donna Gray

EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) will be allowed to drill for natural gas within a two-mile moratorium area around a gas seep near Silt.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) lifted the moratorium Monday [April 24] after EnCana filed a request to be allowed to drill there.

In 2004, EnCana was fined a record $371,000 for a faulty well that leaked gas into West Divide Creek. The seep was found to contain a carcinogenic chemical – benzene – within the gas leaking from a natural geologic fault that intersected the production area on an EnCana well.

Benzene continues to occur in the seep itself. EnCana continues to treat contaminated groundwater around the seep.

The COGCC imposed new cementing rules throughout the Mamm Creek area to ensure wells are properly sealed to prevent gas from rising up the well bore.

Last summer the COGCC allowed Bill Barrett Corp. to drill up to 20 wells within the moratorium area.

In lifting the moratorium, the COGCC also established an area three-and-three-quarter-miles long by one-mile wide extending from the seep in a northwesterly direction where operators will have to take special precautions.

“The (COGCC) staff determined (part) of East Mamm Creek … very likely has a subsurface fault trend through that area,” said COGCC director Brian Macke. “The staff recommended allowing drilling to go on but have added drill requirements” in the fault area.

A hydrogeological study commissioned by the Garfield County Commissioners last year revealed that the area around the Divide and Dry Hollow creeks have numerous natural and deep-seated faults that could present a challenge to operators to keep the gas within its intended pathways …

For Silt, this is the worst news. Yeah, the gas well fires are dangerous. But so far they’ve been able to put them out. And the drilling in the Project Rulison nuclear blast site is pretty scary (read Pandora’s Radioactive Box). But there’s no evidence of any release of radioactivity.

Yet.

Except for that white Halliburton panel truck with the word RADIOACTIVE printed on the side that we saw last week …

With the West Divide Creek seep, we have the evidence. Proof. Testing. A study.

The hydrogeological study showed that because of the geology in the West Divide Creek area, water from contaminated wells flows into West Divide Creek, which flows into Divide Creek, which flows into the Colorado River – less than a quarter mile east and upriver of Silt’s water treatment plant. This is not “may happen” or “might happen”. This was happening. This is happening. And STILL the moratorium was lifted. Therefore it will continue to happen.

Hell, the Dietrich’s well was so contaminated, Encana bought the property. But I’m sure they did that so they could do a super-duper clean-up and we don’t have to worry about that messy ol Dietrich well leeching into West Divide Creek anymore.

Yeah. Right.

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