Parachute Creek spill: Day 45

Parachute_GW_Benzene_IsoconcentrationI had planned to post questions today. However Bob Arrington had a brainstorm yesterday so I’m turning over the update to him. 


Here is a way to start fixing the spill
By Bob Arrington*

Effects of Alternate Petroleum Hydrocarbon Sources in the Vadose Zone on the Vapor Intrusion Pathway beneath a Residential Community

Site Description
The subject site is a mixed residential and commercial community, situated in the Midwestern United States. The community lies within a glacial-incised valley that was subsequently filled with coarse-grained outwash and alluvial deposits, with an overall coarsening sequence with increasing depth. The soil gas permeability of these deposits are generally between 1E-7 to 1E-9 square centimeters, typical for medium to coarse grained sands.

Groundwater is located between 40 and 60 feet below ground surface (ft-bgs). A portion of the town overlies LNAPL associated with historical petroleum releases from an adjoining facility. LNAPL is present within a vertical smear zone approximately 15 to 20 feet thick, associated with seasonal fluctuation of the water table.

In June 1999, a vapor extraction system was installed beneath the community as part of interim measures to reduce the smear zone mass. The soil vapor extraction system was designed to remove volatile petroleum hydrocarbons at a high rate initially, with an expectation that the mass removal rate would gradually diminish as the hydrocarbons within the smear zone were depleted, at which time the system would be operated intermittently and ultimately shut down. The system was constructed with the capacity to extract and treat vapors at a flow rate of 3,500 standard cubic feet per minute (scfm), but is typically operated using a single extraction line at flow rates between 1,200 and 1,600 scfm. The system commenced operation in November 1999 and operated nearly continuously through May 2001. The system was then operated by cycling each line for a period between one day and four months beginning May 29, 2001 through December 27, 2007. More than 530,000 pounds of petroleum hydrocarbons have been removed from the vadose zone beneath the community since 1999.

While this paper dates back to 1999, what Williams is waiting for is the stuff to stop moving. But the hydrocarbons can go deeper than they have been playing with.

If you look at Water table map with the blue profiles, it looks like the hydros crossed the creek between the 5381 and 5380 elevations in relation to the yellow profiles of the contamination map.

Potentiometric Surface Map

04/15/13 — Most recent benzene concentrations in groundwater and isoconcentration map

This gives information that their mapping of potentiometer readings and the projection of map lines was reflecting a bit of wishful thinking and assumption. Something in the creek has caused a diversion it would appear. That could be the pipeline anchor block in the creek of the uppermost yellow dash line. The contamination was flowing at an approximate elevation of between 5380 and 5379 around the northern end of the big trench. At this time it could also still be in the soil gradient and not on the water table yet because it is still close to the surface start point. Ascertaining the elevation of the creek bottom and anchor system would be helpful. But upper soil saturation in the creek bank,  plus water table at 5380 at creek edge running into a dam created by the anchor could allow the hydros to pass under the stream on a water table backup behind the anchor. That is why it is important to know the creek bottom elevation at anchor point. The two profile yellow lines at each “foot” of an anchor on the pipeline are indicated on the contamination map. (This is just the top of the plume considerations where potentiometer readings were taken).


I sent this letter today –

John W. Hickenlooper
Governor of the State of Colorado
136 State Capitol
Denver, CO 80203-1792

Dear Governor Hickenlooper,

As stated on the Department of Health’s web site:
The Division oversees the cleanup and remediation of many different types of sites and facilities within the state that have been contaminated by past and/or current uses. Some of these sites are small, involving only a few square feet of surface contamination, while others have several square miles of impacted soil and groundwater. The Division is an implementing agency for the state groundwater standards and oversees groundwater remediation along with soil remediation.

On the Parachute Creek blowout of hydrocarbons, the COGCC has been oversight agency on this remediation program. The entire effort by Williams has been in conjunction with COGCC staff. Colorado legislation has established that this is the jurisdiction of CDPHE Hazardous Waste Div.

Williams has struggled with establishing:

  1. Source of the blowout.
  2. The amount of material lost.
  3. The expansion of the contamination plume.
  4. The collection and remediation of soil and water.
  5. Allowing ill-equipped sub-contract workers to be used in efforts.
  6. The implementation of effective measures to stop this spread of contamination and the program by which the contamination will be removed.

Some examples of the above:

  1. I had to point out that a burst pressure gauge had the capability to create a massive spill.
  2. They use an estimate of 80% evaporation of liquids during the spill using laboratory conditions data while field conditions were below freezing to minus conditions. These liquids are cold distilled from NG. For a spill, they should assume “worst case”. Regardless, they have violated air pollution rules as well as the hazardous waste spill.
  3. They have been “chasing boundaries” of the plume instead of setting pattern monitors a good distance ahead of probable paths and working back to contamination. I even pointed out to them the most likely point of water table to creek interface 2 weeks before it ocurred, and yet they were not prepared nor interested to confirm.
  4. Their initial collection of water and soil was without plan other than store or dump somewhere.
  5. Worker treatment is resulting in an OSHA response. COGCC did not pick-up on this potential even with warning from the Grand Valley Citizen’s Alliance (GVCA).
  6. Without staff and training for situation, how can COGCC provide oversight or approval of long range treatment of remediation?

Perhaps part of the problem is the agency currently involved, COGCC, is not equipped nor manned with the proper personnel to handle the task. The proper agency is CDPHE. However, this agency has also had its problems in ineffective or negligent oversight as shown with its uranium impact study fiasco and the Suncor clean-up.

It would behoove you to get these agency responsibilities straightened out before this incident grows to epic proportions. And considering the proper agency, you should perhaps also look at why this CDPHE has performed in less than stellar manner in some earlier attempts to protect health, safety, and well-being as mandated by law. New leadership or policy?


Bob Arrington, P.E.
Battlement Mesa, CO 81635

Cc: Matt Lepore, Director COGCC

Chris Urbina, M.D., MPH, Executive Director


*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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2 Comments on “Parachute Creek spill: Day 45”

  1. R.Vottero Says:

    Thank you Peggy!!! Your site is the best at current and historic information about O&G in western Colorado and beyond. Day by day coverage is essential, as the newspapers move on with other coverage. I’m telling people about your site. I love your ” won’t let go” attitude and informing your neighbors, turns out we are all neighbors. Please tell Bob Arrington he has a standing “atta boy” from a growing number of neighbors.

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    You are so welcome, R Vottero. And thank you for your concern about and your attention to the spill. It’s people like you I do this for — because we are all neighbors. Because we have right to know what’s happening to our groundwater, our creeks, our environment. What I enjoy most is the public discussion that has risen up in comments section. With only now 3 very well-controlled and not well-publicized “public meetings” — EAB, Parachute Town Council 4/11 & 4/17 — the public needs somewhere to turn for answers other than Williams website.

    And yes, we are all so proud of Bob A. He’s my hero!

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