Parachute Creek spill: Day 135

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

Benzene spikes don’t concern health officials

PARACHUTE CREEK — State health officials remain optimistic that recent spikes in the toxic compound benzene in the creek is not a health concern for local residents.

“We just believe that it’s part of the natural fluctuations,” said Dave Walker, an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), on Friday…

…The increased benzene levels were not reported immediately because the industry and the state have agreed to ship samples to a Front Range laboratory instead of having them tested at a mobile laboratory on site, at the expense of Williams Midstream, according to Walker.

That means, he said, there can be a delay of a couple of days between taking the samples from the creek and getting results to the public ….

…Benzene was first detected in the creek itself in early May, at a monitoring point known as CS6, the only point where the plume is believed to come in contact with the bottom of the stream …

…A new sparging system went into operation on July 13 near the CS6 monitoring well, which is where the benzene has been detected in the creek, Walker said. He said the elevated levels of benzene found at CS6 may have been due to a shift in the travel pattern of the plume, as the flowing mass tried to get around the vapor extraction equipment that already was in place.

He predicted that the recent high levels should drop back to the pre-July 15 levels …


Williams to treat millions of gallons of groundwater [subscribers only]

Williams expects to remove and treat as many as 26 million gallons of groundwater over a half-year to a year at the site of its natural gas liquids leak alongside Parachute Creek.

That’s according to a water management plan recently approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division.

The approval comes as Williams has been dealing with a recent spike in benzene levels at a monitoring site in the creek, including a reading of 9.2 parts per billion on Monday.

That’s the highest reading in the creek since testing began following discovery of the leak, and follows a reading of 5.5 ppb July 11 …

…[Williams] plans to remove millions of gallons of groundwater at a rate of 50 gallons per minute, clean it and return it to the aquifer under a system that it has installed and been testing.

About 155,000 gallons of tainted groundwater removed in March has been disposed of in an injection well in Grand County, Utah.

Williams also has been shipping about 1,500 cubic yards of excavated soil to a landfill in East Carbon, Utah.


Okay. So, no one expects the CDPHE to be running around with their hair on fire. But their complacency is cause for concern. At the risk of sounding like a broken record – and I don’t really care anymore if I do – where the hell is the CPW (formerly Dept of Wildlife)? They should be involved. They should be sampling the aquatic life. That they are not involved, that no sampling is ongoing, makes me wonder if there’s no aquatic life to sample. Maybe Parachute Creek was DOA before the spill. A toxic waste dump.

And Williams & their subsidiaries bought up all the land around it so they could, in effect, block off public access so no one would find out what’s really going on up there. And by not bringing in the CPW to sample the aquatic life – in essence ignoring the whole environmental food chain thing — it looks the CDPHE is covering for Williams.

What else are we supposed to think?

I’m posting GVCA Chair Leslie Robinson’s comment from Day 134 because it bears repeating:

It is hard to understand that the Colorado Dept of Health could state, according to the Denver Post, that increasing benzene levels “do not represent a risk to public health,” when this cancer-causing chemical is almost twice the recommended saturation for aquatic life in Parachute Creek.

From basic science classes at school, we learned that nature has a very complicated food chain — which includes small aquatic life. And, as we experienced with pesticides, yes, chemicals in the bottom of the food chain DO eventually affect human health.

Nope, it is not reassuring when the state agency allegedly responsible for protecting public health seems to downgrade a very serious poisoning of Parachute Creek.

Look, I know government and industry would like us all to shut up and sit down. They’d like us to move on, get a life – whatever. But guess what? We can’t. We’re stuck with this mess just as much as they are. This is where we live. This is our lives. And we’re like benzene – we’re hard to get rid of.


On June 28, 2013, Williams submitted a 45-page Water Management Plan to the CDPHE, which was approved on July 18: Williams Water Management Plan
[If this link doesn’t work go to CDPHE Parachute Creek, click on Documents in the drop-down menus then click on Water Management Plan]

Williams July 17 update:  Benzene Concentration at Surface Water Point CS-6 Rises; All Other Surface Water Points Still Non-Detect: Additional Remediation Steps Still in Progress

Williams Testing Results


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 July 17:
7,602 gallons (approximately 181 barrels)

Amount of contaminated water brought up with the hydrocarbons as of June 20:
Approximately 369,000 gallons

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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