Parachute Creek spill: Day 89

The area of the underground hydrocarbon plume is outlined in yellow. This map is dated April 30, 2013

The area of the underground hydrocarbon plume is outlined in yellow. This map is dated April 30, 2013

In the PI article on Saturday, reporter John Colson said that Mark Salley (public information official for the CDPHE) wrote in an email: “further updates about the plume may only be forthcoming ‘if there were some significant change at the site, but not anticipating that’.”

In other words, we have reached that inevitable point when government and industry proclaim in unison, “Move along folks. Nothing more to see here.”

Meanwhile the benzene cleanup from the Suncor spill in Sand Creek and the Platte River continues after more than a year and a half. We Coloradans know the Parachute Creek spill isn’t over by a long shot.

With the change in jurisdiction from the COGCC to the CDPHE in late April, the focus suddenly changed from groundwater contamination to benzene levels in Parachute Creek, as though benzene in the creek was the public’s only concern. It wasn’t. And it still isn’t. But Williams and the CDPHE cleverly seized on the benzene-in-the-creek story to draw attention away from the real environmental disaster. They have continued to emphasize the most favorable test results from a defined (south) area of the creek until miraculously Williams subsidiary Bargath’s own bought and paid for test results dropped to non-detect for benzene for 10 days straight.

Their so-called “progress” ignores the source of benzene in the creek in the first place. The broken pressure gauge last December did not spill hydrocarbons directly into Parachute Creek. The spill created an underground plume of hydrocarbons. We must not forget about the plume. It is, after all, what the Parachute Creek spill is all about.

About 60% of Colorado’s water supply comes from groundwater. The water belongs to the people but you’d hardly know it because the state and the industry treat it like private property. To this day the underground hydrocarbon plume continues to pollute the aquifer. That is the real environmental disaster here.

The CDPHE has finally put up a sparse little web page, which they promised over a month ago at the Battlement Mesa/Parachute meeting. Click on “maps” for a drop down menu of old maps from April. Here is the full size version of the April 30 map shown above:

Benzene Isoconcentration and Hydrocarbon Thickness Map – April 30, 2013

The benzene levels back then were very high. I think it’s safe to assume that those benzene levels have remained high or they would have gladly reported them.

Has there been any change in the size of the plume since April 30? Who can say?

Any mention of the underground plume has all but vanished from the Williams and CDPHE updates. According to Saturday’s PI article, Williams’ spokesperson Donna Gray “said the company has a better idea of the size of the plume of contaminated soil surrounding the leak site, but she did not have the details available to her on Friday.”

They know. But they aren’t going to tell us. That plume must be pretty big by now.

Did Williams use a dispersant when the spill was first detected, which caused the plume to grow and expand more rapidly? We don’t know because Williams has never disclosed all the contents of the underground plume. No independent testing has occurred. Williams subsidiary Bargath owns the gas processing plant so that company is in charge of all the monitoring and testing.

Reports on quantities of contaminated groundwater have also faded away. The last figure reported to the public back in early April was 180,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater recovered. We don’t know how many gallons of contaminated groundwater have been recovered to date.

Obviously Williams and the CDPHE are cherry-picking test results to put the best possible face on this ongoing environmental disaster. In order to truly know the extent of the contamination, the public would have to bring in an independent testing company like Gravity Environmental. But that costs money. Garfield County is supposed to represent the public in these situations, but the BOCC is too busy doing away with the measly 35-foot setback on rivers and streams. They’re not in the business of looking out for the public interest. They’re up to their eyeballs in the oil & gas business.

Forget about Governor Hickenlooper or the state. We watched the COGCC act like Williams private legal team for two months. Then the CDPHE tiptoed in and have behaved like Williams’ puppets ever since, including their absurdly premature announcement the state will not fine Williams for the spill.

And we’re supposed to trust Williams and the CDPHE to make sure this mess is cleaned up.

What will happen to the untold hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminated groundwater already recovered? According to Williams May 31 update:

“Williams is in the process of installing a water treatment system as part of its long-term remediation plan. The system (which currently has an expected June in-service date) will be constructed to remove hydrocarbons and groundwater from the aquifer using recovery wells and subsequently treat the recovered water to remove hydrocarbons so that the water can be safely returned to the aquifer.”

Perhaps Governor Hickenlooper ought to be the first to drink a tall glass of Williams treated groundwater. Next in line — the Garfield County Commissioners.


CDPHE Parachute Creek

To view the other documentation related to this incident visit the COGCC website and click on IMAGES on the left-hand side. Select “Projects” from the drop-down menu, enter 2120 as the unique identifier and click the “search” button.

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One Comment on “Parachute Creek spill: Day 89”

  1. Beth Says:

    Truly, madly,deeply, we cannot, in my opinion believe anything that these yobbos say in the press. They want us all to shut up and go away before the horrible truth reveals itself. We need to keep on digging, and get independent test done by people that aren’t on retainer to the likes of those mentioned above. Our private tests completely obliterated the COGCC’s test as being generic and completely false. Thanks for keeping on them Peggy. As Tara says, “The carpet they’re sweeping all those lies under is starting to unravel.” Keep on pulling the wool strands.

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