Parachute Creek spill: Day 21

This photo was taken from CR 215, north of Parachute. The orange area to the left of the building is the spill site. The media has not been allowed beyond this point.

This photo was taken from CR 215, north of Parachute. The orange area to the left of the building is the spill site. The media has not been allowed beyond the point from which I took this photo.

* To date, more than 153,600 gallons of contaminated groundwater and more than 6,000 gallons of “unidentified hydrocarbon” liquids and/or compounds have been removed from the Parachute Creek spill-plume-leak-seep site.

* A monitoring well exposed liquid hydrocarbons on the surface of groundwater 30 feet from Parachute Creek.

In today’s Daily Sentinel article [excerpt below] COGCC Executive Director Matt Lepore responded to GVCA’s call for more transparency concerning the Parachute Creek environmental disaster by saying:  “Can we do more, better, faster all the time? Always, yeah, but I’m not quite sure what we’re withholding or are perceived to be withholding.”

I don’t speak for the GVCA or the media. I’m just a citizen blogger who lives along the Colorado River, upstream from Parachute Creek. So it’s probably best if this comes from me. I say, “Prove it.” The photo above shows you how far away the media is being kept from the spill-plume-leak-seep site – yes that’s right we don’t even know what it is. That screams to the public they’re hiding something. If they don’t have anything to hide, it’s time they prove it.

The media should be allowed in to view the site, cameras and all! The sooner the better. I still think we need a helicopter.

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COGCC water tests indicate no Parachute Creek contamination
Size of hydrocarbon plume is still not precisely known

PARACHUTE, Colorado — A state official said on Wednesday that test results received that day indicated no pollution in Parachute Creek from a large leak near a Williams Midstream natural gas processing plant …

… Since the plume was reported, Williams has been vacuuming liquid hydrocarbons and water from the site, and has sunk six water-quality monitor wells into the ground surrounding the plume to determine both the size of the plume and how it has affected groundwater in the area …

… Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), said on Wednesday that the size of the plume is not precisely known.“We have not truly begun to determine the full footprint of the plume,” he noted, explaining that his agency and Williams have been concentrating on preventing contamination of Parachute Creek and on finding the source of the leak …

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An “interceptor trench” dug in an effort to keep a plume of hydrocarbons from reaching Parachute Creek near the Williams natural gas processing plant. Contaminated groundwater in the trench is being sucked out into the truck in the background. So far, over 140 barrels of such water has been captured. (Courtesy photo)

An “interceptor trench” dug in an effort to keep a plume of hydrocarbons from reaching Parachute Creek near the Williams natural gas processing plant. Contaminated groundwater in the trench is being sucked out into the truck in the background. So far, over 140 barrels of such water has been captured. (COGCC photo)

State on top of Parachute hydrocarbon plume incident, says COGCC director

… When asked if the plume was unusual in a statewide context, Lepore said, “I think this is an event of a certain magnitude that I would call it unusual. But we’re in a place that is hard to speculate. We don’t know what happened.”

He added that in an industrial process like natural gas production, things do go wrong.

“There are spills,” he said. “There are accidents. Nobody is happy about this, including the operators. This is not a good situation and we want to get it rectified as soon as we can.”

On the other hand, he said “the impacts will be there for many months to come,” he said. “That is a fact of environmental groundwater impacts.”

More photos from the COGCC:  120_dda_03-19-2013-Photograph_Notes (1)

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Lepore: Gradient protecting creek from leak (subscribers only)

The elevation of the water table below Parachute Creek is higher than at the site of a nearby hydrocarbon leak, helping protect the creek from contamination, the director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said Wednesday.

“So the groundwater flow direction should be away from the creek. Put it differently, to get to the creek the contamination would have to go uphill,” Matt Lepore said in an interview.

In a statement yesterday, Hartman gave this assessment of groundwater flow: “Based on preliminary water level data from monitoring wells, bore holes and Parachute Creek, groundwater flows away from the creek toward the recovery trench. In short, the creek serves to recharge groundwater as opposed to groundwater feeding the creek.”

Retired engineer Bob Arrington took issue with the COGCC’s assessment of groundwater flow saying:

This latest blurb of stream recharges ground water propaganda is just that.

At any cross-section of the valley, the stream is the low point. All moisture going onto surrounding ground flows toward the stream and down valley. The stream can saturate ground in the stream bottom outward until pressure of surrounding ground water equals water level of stream. If you dig a trench in the ground bordering a stream laden with ground water, you will strike water at stream level or slightly higher depending on upstream meanders and recent moisture on ground and valley walls. The water will pour into your trench from both sides and the bottom seeking its head level (pressure balance). The flow of the water for both the stream and the ground water is down valley toward the river that stream is running to. The hydrocarbon liquids follow the path of ground waters coming from valley walls and those hydrocarbon liquids will tend to “float” on the water where it interfaces. However, depending on the hydrocarbons, the BTEXs have a more soluble nature to their molecular structure and can interface with the water. So as long as there is ground water contact with the hydrocarbons, unless a coffer dam is built to lowest level of groundwater, it is impossible to stop the flow of hydrocarbons and ground water downstream. This also involves piping upstream stream water over/past the cofferdam.

This is the same dilemma facing the Suncor clean-up [of the South Platte River] on the front range.

What they are hoping and doing right now is a reduction of hydrocarbons such that dispersion will dilute below danger levels — it will not prevent some downstream contamination!

In addition Arrington said in The Daily Sentinel article:

“That groundwater is seeking its way to the stream and it’s got more head (pressure) coming off the hillsides than the stream (groundwater) going up the hillsides,” [Arrington] said. ” … The whole flow profile is just going to slowly pour into that gully and go down to the (Colorado) River.”

A monitoring well has found liquid hydrocarbons on the surface of groundwater 30 feet from the creek, between the creek and a trench dug to try to intercept the contaminants. Lepore said the trench appears to be creating a vacuum pressure that draws groundwater toward it …

… Lepore [said] the investigation is ongoing and “very dynamic,” but the COGCC has talked about what’s being done to identify the source, about the “hot spot” at the valve box, and about monitoring wells and other developments.

“Can we do more, better, faster all the time? Always, yeah, but I’m not quite sure what we’re withholding or are perceived to be withholding,” he said.

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Lafayette lawmaker looks to pump up oil and gas fines
Industry trade group to work with Foote on bill to increase penalties for spills, pollution

A Lafayette lawmaker says Colorado’s system of levying fines against oil and gas companies for environmental disaster like the spill this month near Parachute Creek is totally out of whack with other states and needs to be brought “into this century.”

Update on oil and gas bills

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The GVCA and the media continue to call on residents and workers in the Parachute area to come forward with any information. Every effort will be taken to ensure confidentiality. Or, you can email me: peggyt@siltnet.net

What worries you the most about the hydrocarbon plume near Parachute Creek?
Take the poll

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4 Comments on “Parachute Creek spill: Day 21”

  1. richard schwabe Says:

    How come their is no mention of the spill in the Rifle Citizen Telegram?

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Good question! Why isn’t the national media covering it?
    My husband Tod said, “If a woman was responsible for or had somehow caused this environmental disaster, the media would be all over it.”
    heh

  3. Beth Says:

    I forwarded a newstip to ADN and AT. ADN ran the story. I’ve been sending the story daily to channel 9 and 7 in Denver, me thinks industry has input on what stories they CAN’T run.

  4. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    kinda looks that way ….
    thanks for helping me push the story Beth, I’ve been contacting other media outlets, too

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