Parachute Creek spill: Day 36

2013 0329 Bargath Fig2 PotentiometricMap from 0327

State still watching Parachute Creek plume site
Questions abound concerning size of plume, nature of contamination


Playing with Numbers
Guest post by Bob Arrington*

[In this post Bob refers to this Potentiometric Surface Map shown above as an illustration. Click on the link to open the full-size map. He also refers to Williams press release here.]

Poor me I just can’t stop playing with numbers, left over habits of engineers I guess.

Let me see, Williams said: 241 bbls went into the ground and 80% evaporated into the air.

241 bbls is 20% of 1205 bbls – or 50,610 gallons.

241 bbls into the ground and 142 bbls recovered would mean 99 bbls still in the ground by their best estimate. But then, of course, there is that stuff found across the stream. Well, that could be spillage from transfer processes.

But the 99 bbls are subject to best case scenario. Worst case could be evaporation was not that high or at all.

They use cooling to “distill” the liquid out of the Natural Gas (NG) and the outside temperatures during the period of the spill were quite low. For this reason, I believe that the 80% number they used for vaporization was quite high. They used EPA numbers that would probably been developed for STP (Standard Temperature Pressure- ambient lab environment) conditions.

In that case, let’s say 1200 bbls went into the ground. If I were doing disaster work, that would be my target for remedy. Do sample summation for area contamination detected, density saturation and depth against the 1200 bbls possible and see how you are really doing. Nice little calculus summation for a budding engineer or computer programmer.

All of this should be done before a cloud burst or 100-year flood ruins your opportunity.

I have suggested a method to determine the amount they are dealing with another way.

Basically, I am saying there is still 1200 bbls – 142 bbls = 1058 bbls (~44,436 gallons) or some part thereof out in the environment that has a possibility of actually lurking in the site. Just sayin.

The good news came Wednesday [4/10/13] that Williams did indeed check this gauge aspect further and determined it a source of major spillage. However, they did put in information to downplay the amount that would be in the soil. They put in 80% evaporation to make it only 241 bbls they lost in the ground. They recovered 142 bbls, leaving a mere 99 bbls in the ground.

Since it was leaking 14 days before they discovered it on January 3, trenches dug  ~60 days (March 3) and the plume a 1000 feet away [Williams press release on 4/10] from valve site on April 10 (~ 100 days = 10 feet/day movement) the plume had already passed their later trenches to the east, as it was probably 600 feet from the spill. The first long trench was in the “pool” of lowest water table. But my guess is they didn’t fully trench between the “pool” and the two 5376 elevations, so it continued flow over to the “horseshoe” 5376 and there is also flow from 5377, the big bulge, across the big gap to 5376 “horseshoe.”  Following the bottom leg of the “horseshoe” to about the creek bend, is the high reading of benzene 10 feet from the creek as shown on map at EAB meeting. Reference: water table elevation profile map – water tables are shown in blue.

As an added note, the 5376 goes around the “pool” as does the 5377. If much of the hydrocarbons were coming down the original pipe trench, they would have started curving to the southeast by the big cottonwood tree toward the “horseshoe”. Monitoring wells on the stream side of the trenches showed benzene had passed the trenches.

Regardless, at least the focus can be on stopping the down stream spread in the water table and cleaning the site. Overall, there has been a tremendous amount of water lost in the clean-up and there are water users that will be shortchanged as this continues and their supply remains under threat as long as the site is “dirty”.

It is a shame that such a tight lid is kept on meaningful information as the pressure gauge information could have triggered location ascertain a month earlier and 300 feet less travel of the plume. Other things coming out such as workers exposed after hydrocarbons was known to be present and Williams knowing what the hydrocarbons were is inexcusable. Workers were being supplied by a sub-contractor (Badger), but Williams is culpable by allowing Badger to put people on site without proper hazmat gear.

Another final consideration, if the best case put 1058 bbls into the air, it doesn’t mean it stays there – it can mix with water and come down in snow/rain; either groundwater or air has been contaminated.

Potentiometric Surface Map


*Bob Arrington is a retired engineer and the Battlement Mesa citizen representative on Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board (EAB). He also represents the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and the Battlement Concerned Citizens.

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4 Comments on “Parachute Creek spill: Day 36”

  1. MM Says:

    Hey Peggy – just wanted to say thanks for your ongoing updates. It is appreciated – keep up the great work!

  2. Beth Says:

    Hi Peggy,

    I had a couple in my place of work, and low and behold they work for the gas company that has the leak in Parachute. They have been brought in to install a computer monitoring system for leaks. They’re from Oklahoma, and said the leak started Dec. 25th.

  3. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Yeah — they were told Dec 25 — we were told March 8 — no January 3 — oops wait — Dec 18 — hard to keep it all straight. They just make this shit up as they go.

  4. Leslie Robinson Says:

    This Parachute Plume is amazing: It can crawl under Parachute Creek; it can jump over the creek; it can run parallel just 10 feet away from the creek; but, oh, no, Benzene has never entered the creek….it all floated out into space.

    So, anyone care to have a sip or a sniff to test that oil company theory?

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