Parachute Creek spill: Day 103

Parachute Creek industrial zone

Parachute Creek industrial zone

Williams testing results as of June 17 showed benzene levels from 1.4 to 1.9 ppb at that pesky Sampling Site 6, for the tenth consecutive day.

The CDPHE has updated their Parachute Creek webpage. On the drop down menu click on “Documents” for the Williams weekly updates. The latest weekly update is for June 10-16, 2013. This update contains 63 pages of information, maps, and tables. The Williams water treatment plant is now operating.

WTP System Startup

On Friday June 14, 2013, WTP system startup activities were initiated. Startup involved the treatment of recovered water stored in frac tanks Grand Valley – 26299L and Roancliff – Tank#4045L. Water from these two frac tanks represent the two waste streams of recovered water being stored on site. Water from these two frac tanks were transferred to a frac tank at the WTP for processing. Water was treated and then stored in “certified clean” frac tanks pending analytical results, permitting, and final disposition to the infiltration gallery. During the startup, approximately 30,356 gallons of water was treated and is being stored.

I googled “certified clean frac tank” and didn’t really find out anything. I think it means a frac tank that Williams says has been cleaned of fracking chemicals.

I’ll keep looking through the information. If you happen to find anything else noteworthy, be sure to let us know.

Also in the drop down menu under Frequently Asked Questions now you will actually find frequently asked questions. Not much new information. And this:

What about air pollution during the cleanup process?
Any air emissions that may be generated during the cleanup process will be controlled and permitted through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division, not the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division.

“Will be controlled and permitted” — what does that mean?  The remediation process began months ago. What are they waiting for? Perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future when they feel like the BTEXs being air sparged have degraded to acceptable levels THEN they will monitor the air and tell us everything is A-OK.

And what’s up with permitting? Does Williams get to buy a permit to pollute the air? Sounds like a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Don’t bother going to the Air Pollution Control Division page. You won’t find anything there regarding the Parachute Creek spill.

At the April 30 public meeting at the Grand Valley Fire Protection District Building, David Walker (CDPHE Hazardous Waste Corrective Action Project Manager) said the emissions from air sparging would be captured and air quality monitoring would also be done. However as of April 30 air quality monitoring was not in place and they were not capturing emissions from air sparging.

The CDPHE needs to stop being so evasive and address the issues of air sparging emissions and air quality monitoring.

Let me explain something about air quality monitoring in Garfield County. The county monitors air quality for particulate matter and ozone. The air quality monitors do not detect BTEXs, H2S, or any other drilling and fracking chemicals. Air quality monitoring for chemical emissions is left up to the operators. They can pick and choose which well pads they want to monitor for emissions. At oil & gas industry facilities there is air quality monitoring which is reported to the EPA. So it’s highly likely that air monitoring and reporting, and capturing emissions from air sparging has been left up to Williams.

Last week, you will remember on Day 96 (June 11) I posted a link to the Follow-Up Questions from Journalists and Others; Answers from CDPHE Staff. The document is dated June 4 but it wasn’t posted until June 11. I posted several highlights (below) from the Q&A including:

Amount of contaminated water brought up with the hydrocarbons as of May 31:
Approximately 225,000 gallons

I edited that. What the actual Q&A on the first page said was:

What is the amount of contaminated water brought up with the hydrocarbons as of May 31.
**Approximately 12,000 gallons.

With two asterisks. At the bottom of the page the two asterisks referred to this:

** Revision by Dave Walker of CDPHE: “I just found out in this afternoon’s technical teleconference that I made a major error in the amount of groundwater that has been pumped as part of the Parachute Creek Pipeline Release Remediation. The actual volume of extracted groundwater currently in storage at the site is 17 frac tanks. Each tank holds approximately 17,000 gallons of groundwater for a total of approximately 225,000 gallons. I originally reported 12,000 gallons. Please forward this new information to Mr. Colson. I apologize for the error.”

Carl McWilliams pointed out in his comment on the Day 98 post: “Now with the story off the front pages, we are told via a low-key CDPHE press release, that the actual amount of contaminated groundwater is 20 times the original estimates, or 225,000 gallons.”

Carl’s point is valid. At the time I read the Q&A last week, I took the error at face value and reported the corrected amount but not the “major error.” It indicated to me a hands-off approach by the CDPHE, in that Walker doesn’t seem to know the actual numbers and gets his information from a teleconference.

From the beginning, this situation has involved a great deal of parsing, back-dating, half-truths, omissions, obfuscation, empty promises, and just plain bullshit. Those of us who have been watching the oil & gas industry and the state for lo, these many years have adapted to this level of incompetence and lack of accountability. They behave this way because – well – they can.

But that doesn’t mean we should accept it.

Last week in a letter to Governor Hickenlooper, Bob Arrington pointed out the obvious failures in Williams’ SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisitions) systems and called for an investigation. Others have called for investigations.

Yet there has been no response – and no investigation. We all deserve better than this from the state of Colorado.

What we are witnessing, and have been for the past three months,  is how governments — from municipal to county to state and federal — defer to the oil & gas industry,  in this case Williams. Industry supporters complain constantly about too much regulation. I see no signs of too much regulation in this mess. Instead we are seeing the damage caused by not enough regulation. The Parachute Creek spill is a case study in just how much the oil & gas industry gets away with while governments take a hands-off approach and “trust” them to do the right thing.

***********

CDPHE Parachute Creek

Plume size:
The maximum estimated size of the plume is approximately 1,500 feet long, 308 feet wide and 10 feet thick. This equals an area of approximately 462,000 square feet or 10.6 acres in area; roughly 34,595,000 gallons.

(The Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Pool is 405 feet long and 100 feet wide at the widest point, and contains 1,071,000 gallons of water.)

Chemical composition of plume:
Benzene; toluene; ethylbenzene; all three xylenes (M, O and P); cyclohexane; hexane;
methylcyclohexane; isopropylbenzene; acetone; bromoform; heptanes; 1, 2 , 3-trimethylbenzene; 1, 2, 4-trimethylbenzene; 1, 3, 5-trimethylbenzene and tetrachloroethene.

Amount of hydrocarbons extracted as of May 31:
173 barrels or 7,266 gallons

Amount of contaminated water brought up with the hydrocarbons as of May 31:
Approximately 225,000 gallons

Amount of contaminated sand and soil brought up with the above, same time frame:
Approximately 1,500 cubic yards

Groundwater benzene levels in mid-May from selected monitoring wells:
“Williams has draft groundwater results that show a significant decrease in benzene concentration in groundwater down-gradient of the aeration trench. The concentration of benzene in monitoring point TMP-48 dropped from 670 ppb on April 29 to 100 ppb on May 13 to 4 ppb on May 15. The benzene concentration in monitoring point TMP-52 dropped from 360 ppb on April 29 to 170 ppb on May 12 (the last sample collection date for TMP-52). Furthermore, the benzene concentration in the down-gradient air sparge trench and vertical well points efficacy monitoring location, SPT1-4, has decreased from 760 ppb on May 12 to 140 ug/L on May 15, 2013.”

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