GarCo says no dice on groundwater monitor

*Update: The May 14 BOCC Meeting video is now posted at the GarCo website*
[under Board of County Commissioners Meetings, click on 2012 meetings]

By Lisa Bracken

During his oil and gas update, Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison, Kirby Wynn, presented documentation to the Board of Garfield County Commissioners on May 14, which minimizes the very real, finally measured, and lingering impacts from the 2008 seep.

DRAFT notes on history and timelines associated with 2004 West Divide Creek Seep

In his summary, Kirby noted that impacts were neither significant nor thermogenic. In fact, impacts were both. A number of environmental symptoms erupted in concert with one another, and coincided with EnCana’s drilling in the area, less than a quarter mile away, potentially stemming from failed cementing and other technical issues on a nearby well.

After years of testing delays, a soil gas survey in 2010 revealed thermogenic compounds such as propane, butane, and pentane — all signature elements of produced natural gas. These compounds were nearly identical in the time of occurrence; mix and volume as the contamination which showed up in the Moon water well. A follow up engineering review showed critical failures associated with wells in the area.

Common sense suggests that the 2008 seep and those failures are related, but a persistent effort to deny impacts, delay sampling, sample irrelevant areas, and characterize events otherwise, certainly does complicate the picture.

Full on grossness W Divide Creek 6/28/08
Photo courtesy of Journey of the Forsaken

It is unclear to me why Dr. Thyne reversed his position on the 2008 seep. Formerly, he had said my observations were consistent with a methane-saturated environment (that had erupted then diminished in part); he suspected wells of allowing natural gas to migrate into the groundwater aquifer (which he defended on behalf of Garfield County at a hearing in Glenwood — transcripts available).  Further, he had discussed with citizens (myself included) in a public presentation with (then liaison) Judy Jordan the importance of groundwater monitoring at the site of impact.

According to Mr. Wynn’s characterization, Dr. Thyne apparently now holds the position that the impacts were neither significant nor thermogenic (despite documented evidence to the contrary).

Also, Dr. Thyne seems to believe that groundwater monitors dozens of yards upstream of the impact are sufficient to detect the contamination plume. That contamination (the size of which is anyone’s guess) has only thus far been validated via a soil gas survey. In that survey, a large inverted funnel was plopped on the ground at the site of the still bubbling seep in 2010, and the bubbling gas was sent through a back-pack style field analyzer.

That soil gas survey was finally conducted around three years after the seep first emerged. Which implies that it continued three years after any quiet remediation efforts followed my report. While the seep did diminish afterward, it continued for those three years and was present as recently as last fall (that I observed).

During a recent field tour which he requested, Mr. Wynn, reiterated that he cannot be sure the seep is still there. He pointed out that the soil gas survey is now two years old, and I would need to demonstrate via a similar quantifiable method, that the seep still exists. Certainly, if I could afford to do that, I would have done it the minute the seep erupted and not three years later. When I pointed out that the delays were not my choice and the 2010 survey should clearly prompt follow-up testing by the county — particularly since it persists and the engineering report showed failures in both cementing and fracking from that same time frame.

No dice. He said he couldn’t justify the cost of a groundwater monitor. This seems a little ridiculous to me, given the county’s efforts at perpetuating delay of the groundwater monitor and the amount of money the county has made through the exploitation of the West Divide Creek watershed. Numbers I haven’t added up, but would love to.

Of course I feel that a groundwater monitor is the obvious and common sense follow-up to detected surface contamination, which demonstrates shallow aquifer degradation and the inability of remedial cementing to cure. This is actually standard procedure in other areas of the country where groundwater contamination is found — from sources other than the oil and gas industry.

The West Divide Creek watershed is illustrative of similar risks that could be encountered in similar conditions — such as those within Rifle’s watershed, in the Thompson Creek area and all along the Colorado River from Silt to Parachute where drilling is either occurring or proposed.

No dice. Inexplicable — but no dice.

For more information:

Journey of the Forsaken

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2 Comments on “GarCo says no dice on groundwater monitor”

  1. Beth Strudley Says:

    Alright………Why did Thyne change his tune? Did Industry threaten him, or pay him? This seems to be a common occurrence when dealing with these creatures. I mean……Proving them wrong.

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  1. GarCo says no dice on groundwater monitor - June 4, 2012

    […] View the original article here Posted in Gas South Bill Pay | Tags: GarCo, groundwater, monitor « Jim Rada resigns […]

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