Williams identifies source of Parachute Creek spill

This valve site is the focus of the COGCC investigation into the source of the Parachute Creek plume. (COGCC photo)

The source of the Parachute Creek spill was a failed pressure gauge which was part of this valve set. (COGCC photo)

April 7, 2013 — Bob Arrington explains how a burst pressure gauge could be the source of the Parachute Creek spill

April 10, 2013  —Williams Update on Activity Near Its Parachute, Colo., Facility

Company Identifies Source of Leak, Confirms It Was Stopped Jan. 3; Creek Unaffected by Leak

Based on a preliminary analysis of meter data, Williams officials have concluded that a failed pressure gauge is the source of the hydrocarbon fluids the company found last month near its Parachute Gas Plant. The leak was stopped on January 3, 2013, at 12:33 a.m. The gauge was part of a valve set on a 4-inch natural gas liquids pipeline that belongs to Williams Partners.

The company’s evaluation of data from two flow meters on the 4-inch natural gas liquids pipeline shows that the pressure-gauge leak started on Dec. 20, 2012. Based on its analysis that employed Environmental Protection Agency methodology regarding the evaporative properties of natural gas liquids, the company estimates that about 80 percent of the leaked volumes vaporized before entering the soil. By the time the leak was stopped on Jan. 3, 2013, the company estimates up to 241 barrels of natural gas liquids entered the soil at the valve location. To date, crews have recovered about 142 barrels of natural gas liquids from the site.

The valve set controls a 4-inch diameter natural gas liquids line flowing out of Williams’ Parachute Gas Plant. When the leak was stopped on Jan. 3, the company removed the leaking pressure gauge at the valve set. Crews cleaned up the natural gas liquids that were thought to have leaked, at that time which was less than one barrel, a level less than the requirement for regulatory notification. Additional excavation around the valve set and the recently completed meter data analysis indicate that the broken pressure gauge is the source of the hydrocarbon fluid found in the soil by workers on March 8.

Lab Results Show Creek Unaffected

Lab analyses of water samples indicate that Parachute Creek is unaffected by the hydrocarbons that work crews discovered earlier this month in soil near Williams’ natural-gas processing plant. Williams has provided the water-sample analyses from two independent, accredited laboratories to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and to the US EPA Region 8.

Since Williams’ initial discovery and reporting to regulatory agencies on March 8, environmental specialists have collected daily water samples from the creek upstream and downstream of the hydrocarbon-soil location. The initial discovery site is about 60 feet from the creek on Williams’ pipeline right-of-way on third-party property in Parachute, Colo.

Accutest Laboratories and ALS Environmental have performed the analyses of collected water samples, in accordance with accepted protocols of the regulatory agencies. Samples have been collected from one upstream sample point, six sample points in the assessment area and two sample points downstream of the hydrocarbon-soil location.

Ongoing Work to Protect and Resolve

Williams continues to work under the supervision and authority of regulatory agencies to protect Parachute Creek and clean up additional hydrocarbon liquids found in the soil and groundwater.

Williams’ environmental specialists continue to visually inspect Parachute Creek every 30 minutes and collect daily water samples at the same five locations. As a precautionary measure, containment booms remain in place at the downstream locations.

An interceptor trench located between the hydrocarbon-soil discovery site and Parachute Creek is in place to protect the creek. Crews have been using vacuum trucks to remove the mix of hydrocarbons and water that collects in the interceptor trench. The vacuum trucks and crews remain stationed onsite.

Williams has opened a broader examination of the property in an effort to further determine the area of impact, collect samples for testing and capture additional hydrocarbon fluids from the soil. Temporary storage of collected liquids is in tanks and affected soil is removed and contained off-site pending execution of an approved disposal plan.

Dissolved phase benzene has been detected at points nearly 1,000 feet away from the valve site. The assessment is ongoing into whether the benzene is related to the natural gas liquids released from the broken pressure gauge between December 20, 2012 and January 3, 2013.

Background and Additional Information

Williams reported the hydrocarbon discovery to regulatory agencies on March 8. The COGCC on March 15 issued a cease-and-desist order requiring Williams to take all appropriate measures to prevent contamination of Parachute Creek. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on March 18 filed an administrative order outlining required stabilization and mitigation actions required by the company.

The COGCC on March 20 issued Williams and the third-party property owner a Notice of Alleged Violation. These orders are part of a standard regulatory process to ensure a swift and thorough response, which Williams has provided.

In an effort to keep the public informed and respond to questions in a timely manner, Williams has established the website Answers for Parachute.

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2 Comments on “Williams identifies source of Parachute Creek spill”

  1. Carl Mc Williams Says:

    Obviously, Peggy’s blog is being read by the O&G Industry including WILLIAMS, the Garfield County Commissioners, the CDPHE, the EPA and the COGCC. While John Colson and Dennis Webb are conducting themselves admirably, Peggy’s Blog is kickin-ass.

    This WILLIAMS’ statement about a “failed pressure gauge” that began leaking on December 20, 2012, and the leak was discovered fourteen (14) days later on January 3, 2013, and 80% of the liquids that were released into the environment had evaporated before contaminating the soil, just won’t pass the smell test.

    Case in point about the “smell test” is the WILLIAMS statement: “Natural Gas Liquids”. What is a “Natural Gas Liquid”? Natural gas is CH4. How can CH4 change its state of matter from a gas to a liquid? I’ll bet that the WILLIAMS’ “Natural Gas Liquids” is really “produced water”, and from these recovered fracking fluids the deadly benzene that WILLIAMS is contaminating the soil and the Parachute Creek aquifer(s), is sourced.

    Furthermore, most likely there was not an 80% evaporation of the “Natural Gas Liquids” which means the actual spill of “produced (fracking fluids) water” probably exceeded 1,200 barrels. This is a cover-up and there needs to be a criminal investigation by the Attorney General of the State of Colorado into the acts and omissions of WILLIAMS and it’s officers and employees. {NOTE: see “respondeat superior”.}.

    Registered Engineer Bob Arrington busted WILLIAMS with his calculations disclosed here on Peggy Tibbett’s blog about flow rates and PSI, etc on a 1/8 inch line, WILLIAMS now discloses the pressure line was 4 inches in diameter, not 1/8 inch. Perhaps Mr. Arrington would calculate his estimates for a four inch line, of the actual WILLIAMS/benzene spill from December 20 to Jan. 3rd, the fourteen (14) days it took the WILLIAMS employees to discover the hydrocarbon plume?

    Once again, it does not pass the smell test that it took WILLIAMS’ officers and employees two full weeks to discover a leaking pressure gauge on a four inch high pressure line which transports “Natural Gas Liquids” and then their assessment of the environmental impact was that is was “less than one barrel” and therefore under the amount required to report the spill to the COGCC. [NOTE: This reminds me of the WATERGATE cover-up. The more lies that were told only added to the future lies that had to be told to cover-up the first lies.]

    That said, I herein allege a “mens rea” exists within the officers of WILLIAMS MIDSTREAM to hide from the public, the COGCC, the CDPHE and the EPA; the extent of the WILLIAMS caused Parachute Creek benzene pollution, in order to avoid paying damages awarded in civil court to injured Parachute Creek property owners and the State of Colorado and the federal government for polluting the Colorado River, the Parachute Creek aquifer and Parachute Creek with deadly levels of cancer causing benzene.

    While “the WILLIAMS MIDSTREAM site” is not yet a “crime scene”, from a legal perspective “the site” is a tort scene. Whereas a tort is a civil wrong, not a criminal act and a “Tortfeasor” is an individual or corporation who commits a tort. The remedy for a party injured by the tortious acts and omissions of a “Tortfeasor” is in the form of damages awarded in civil court.

    Therefore, this WILLIAMS/PARACHUTE CREEK incident is shaping up as a “Mass Toxic Tort” class action. A Mass Tort is a civil wrong that injures many people. Examples include toxic omissions from a factory or the crash of a commercial airliner. A Mass Toxic Tort is a civil wrong arising from an exposure to a toxic substance such as asbestos, radiation or hazardous waste. A Mass Toxic Tort can be remedied by a civil lawsuit (usually a class action) or by administrative action.

    The real issue now becomes the tens of millions of dollars in civil liabilities WILLIAMS potentially faces because of its benzene polluting the domestic water wells of the Parachute Creek residents and Parachute Creek and the Colorado River. With the well known $275,000 (2012) CDPHE fine; WILLIAMS/BARGATH has demonstrated, (in their acts and omissions), a failure to conduct environmental control operations in the standard of care that a reasonably prudent company would have exercised in a similar situation, (aka; negligence). The WILLIAMS/BARGATH track record in Garfield County over water quality issues is the antithesis to “best management practices” the O&G Industry now boasts.

    Therefore, to avoid the obvious conflict-of-interest of allowing WILLIAMS to remain: “responsible for delineating the extent of environmental impacts at the site”; prudence and common sense demands an independent, “CERTIFIED INDUSTRIAL HYGIENIST” to act as an ENVIRONMENTAL OVERSIGHT CONTRACTOR to observe the WILLIAMS clean-up, be commissioned by the COGCC at the expense of WILLIAMS MIDSTREAM.

    Moreover, because the Parachute Creek aquifer may have been polluted by the WILLIAMS sourced benzene; due diligence and risk management on the part of the COGCC demands an independent hydrologists/geologist/engineer must be immediately retained by the COGCC to map the impacted aquifers and project the benzene migration. [NOTE: I suggest: THE APPLEGATE GROUP of Glenwood Springs – Dr. Lindsay George – lindsaygeorge@applegategroup.com.]

    Beyond that, the property owners along Parachute Creek will need independent scientific analysis for evidence in civil court and the COGCC is the only agency presently positioned to order the independent laboratory benzene concentrations analysis and hydro-logical (benzene migration) mapping on behalf of the Parachute Creek property owners.

    I am appalled at the lack of due diligence and risk management on the part of the COGCC regarding this environmental disaster at Parachute Creek. The inherent and obvious conflicts-of-interests of allowing WILLIAMS and its employees to oversee the assessment of the environmental degradation from benzene they themselves introduced into the Parachute Creek environment, is a travesty of justice.

    Based upon this Parachute Creek disaster; the COGCC is a “captured agency” and the O&G extraction industry operates with “reckless disregard” under the impunity of “moral hazard”. In fact, a “systemic moral hazard” exists in Colorado between the COGCC and the O&G industry.

    Carl Mc Williams

  2. Beth Strudley Says:

    Well said Carl. I think you may need a body guard. Like I said before, the COGCC cannot be trusted, I know from personal experience, as do you. This is absolutely horrifying to say the least!

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