Parachute Creek spill: Day 41

[Photos of the Parachute Creek cleanup courtesy of Bruce Gordon, Ecoflight]

[Photos of the Parachute Creek cleanup courtesy of Bruce Gordon, Ecoflight]

Williams recently updated their blog Answers for Parachute to answer the burning question: Can I water my vegetables?

Pumper truck hoses blamed for hydrocarbons found near Parachute irrigation water — Okay already. We got the message. The DROs are not related to Bargath’s stormwater violations last fall.

House approves increased fines for oil and gas drilling mishaps — Even if this bill (HB 1267) gets passed into law it won’t affect the Parachute Creek spill, only spills AFTER the bill’s passage.

And here’s the problem. They have to fine them! Colorado and Wyoming: more spills; no fines

A recent analysis by the Coloradoan newspaper found that of 3,852 violation notices issued to oil and gas companies since in Colorado since 1996, only 267—less than seven percent—have resulted in fines. How can we get companies to change their practices and comply with the law if there are no real incentives to do so?

In related news —

Western Colorado’s water quality report card is out. We get a big, fat “F” – for all fracked up — Piceance Basin Water-Quality Reports Now Available [links to the reports are contained in the first paragraph]

“Dissolved-solids concentrations commonly exceeded the EPA secondary drinking-water standard.”

“The majority of methane detections were found near the Mamm Creek-Divide Creek area.”

Survey: Methane in water near Silt [subscriber only]

… Methane concentrations were available for 874 wells, primarily in Garfield County, and it was detected in 24 percent of those wells, the USGS found. It said methane detections greater than 1 milligram per liter were found in 75 samples. Most methane detections and high-methane concentrations were near the Mamm Creek-Divide Creek area south of Silt, it said …

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PC spill to date:

According to Williams, the Parachute Creek spill originated as the result of a leak from a failed pressure gauge on the valve set for the 4-inch pipeline which travels underground from the Williams Gas Processing Plant and under Parachute Creek to a tank farm. The gauge began leaking December 20, 2012, but it wasn’t stopped until January 3, 2013. Initially the spill was believed to be less than 25 gallons. On March 8, 2013, widespread soil and groundwater contamination was uncovered during excavation along the pipeline and about 60 feet from Parachute Creek.

The COGCC investigation continues.

Initially the perimeter of the spill site contamination – or underground plume – was reported as 405 feet by 170 feet, at a depth of 14 feet. Investigators have continued to probe for the extent of the contamination. No new numbers have been released.

Approximately 6,100 gallons of hydrocarbons have been recovered so far and an estimated 4,000 gallons remain in soil and groundwater.

Williams has reported that 184,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater have been recovered so far.

Williams has nine surface water testing points in Parachute Creek and six absorbency booms in place. Visual inspections by Williams’ “environmental specialists” are done each half hour.

As of April 15, two new monitoring wells on the south side of Parachute Creek detected benzene at 490 and 520 parts per billion. Five more monitoring wells downstream did not detect benzene.

As of April 12, a new monitoring well roughly 1,400 feet downstream of the primary investigation area and about 10 feet from the north (and east) bank of Parachute Creek found benzene in the groundwater at 340 parts per billion.

Approximately 90 groundwater monitors have been installed, including both sides of Parachute Creek. Sampling results from one of three monitoring wells located 10 feet from Parachute Creek showed benzene levels of 1,900 to 4,100 ppb (parts per billion). Water tests from three monitoring wells, about 30 feet from Parachute Creek, showed benzene levels ranging from 5,800 ppb to 18,000 ppb. Benzene is a known carcinogen. The EPA and CDPHE health standard for allowable levels of benzene in drinking water is 5 ppb.

Officials continue to insist that lab analyses of surface water samples indicate that Parachute Creek is unaffected by the hydrocarbons from the spill site. Trenches have been dug along the north side of Parachute Creek to enhance groundwater flow away from the creek. Surface water sampling results did not show hydrocarbon contamination (related to contents at spill site) at the point 2.7 miles downstream of the investigation area, where the town of Parachute diverts water to its irrigation reservoir.

Diesel Range Organics (DROs): As early as March 9, a water sample taken from the surface of Parachute Creek near the spill site source investigation area showed the presence of DROs. A surface water sample taken April 7, 800 feet upstream of the source investigation area, showed DROs at 0.73 ppm. Surface water samples taken April 6 and 7 at the point about two miles downstream where the town of Parachute diverts water for an irrigation reservoir showed DROs at 0.71 and 0.49 parts per million. Five sampling points concentrated in the investigation area, and another just upstream, showed no detection of DROs on those same dates. Williams is analyzing samples collected at the diversion point using a field gas chromatograph, which allows for real-time, on-site analysis of water samples. DROs were also detected in an absorbent boom that had been in place for 10 days in Parachute Creek. Officials believe pumper trucks leaving their hoses in Parachute Creek are probably responsible for diesel-like organics found near the town’s irrigation water.

Williams VP & General Manager Dave Keylor has attended two controlled public meetings – EAB (4/4) and Parachute Town Council (4/11) – but has not held a press conference or spoken directly with members of the media.

Governor Hickenlooper has not commented publicly on or visited the site of the Parachute Creek environmental disaster.

Members of the media have not been allowed in to the site.

Williams has created an information website at Answers for Parachute.

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