WPX benzene spill south of Silt

A wastewater pit somewhere south of Silt

A wastewater pit somewhere south of Silt

Good grief. I go off the grid for a few days and there’s another spill reported. This time it’s south of Silt.

WPX spills 50 barrels of produced water south of Silt

SILT — A leaking valve in a network of pipelines on July 2 spilled approximately 50 barrels — about 2,100 gallons — of produced water onto a field about two miles south of the Colorado River between Silt and New Castle, according to documents on file with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The spill occurred on non-irrigated pasture land, known as the Kokopelli Field in the Garfield Creek region, and happened when the company was transferring produced water from one storage facility to another, according to a report filed on the COGCC website by environmental investigator Chris Canfield of Rifle.

Although most of the liquid soaked into the dry soil, according to the report, some ended up running into a bar ditch along an access road and from there into a diversion ditch and a stock pond.

Although approximately 2,100 gallons was spilled, according to the report, “Due to very dry soil conditions a majority of the fluids infiltrated into the underlying soil.”

As a consequence, Canfield reported, only about one barrel, or 42 gallons, was recovered by WPX.

Canfield listed “equipment failure” as the cause of the spill …

Where have we heard that before? Let me think …

An attempt by the Post Independent to contact Susan Alvillar, spokesperson for WPX, was not successful …

… The company also notified the town of Silt water department, and the town’s water intake on the Colorado River was inspected, although the company reportedly did not believe any of the contaminated water made it to a creek or to the Colorado River.

Another good reason not to drink Silt’s water.


The links below are the reports from the COGCC website. KP 34-17 is a wastewater pit so I couldn’t pinpoint the exact location but it appears to be on Jolley Mesa.

Approved KP 34-17 Form 27 rev 1

WPX KP 34-17 Waterline Break Form 19


In the PI article WPX spokesperson Susan Alvillar could not be reached for comment. However she did talk to Dennis Webb at The Daily Sentinel. Below is the excerpt pertaining to their conversation.

WPX spill near New Castle included benzene [subscribers only]

… Produced water contains a mix of hydraulic fracturing fluid and water that comes up from the geological formation where oil and gas is being recovered. A soil sample showed benzene to be present at just above the oil and gas commission’s permissible level in a sediment trap in the ditch, with salt measurements also exceeding what’s allowed. WPX spokeswoman Susan Alvillar said that benzene was found along a road and nowhere else, and may not be related to the spill. However, WPX had the trap cleaned out.

The ditch also had high salt levels and was to be flushed with fresh water. The landowner was to decide whether more fresh water should be added to the pond to dilute it because of excessive salt, or if the pond should be drained and refilled.

Besides replacing the faulty valve, WPX replaced all risers in its Kokopelli Field with below-ground connections of the proper pressure rating.

Alvillar said WPX didn’t install the system that leaked. It bought its Kokopelli assets from Orion Energy Partners.

So what? WPX didn’t inspect the system when they bought it? Obviously they knew about the faulty valve because they fixed it right away.  They waited until the valve broke and spilled frackwater all over the place and then they fixed the problem.

In an e-mail “action alert” Wednesday, Citizens for a Healthy Community in Delta County cited the WPX spill and others such as this year’s leak from a Williams natural gas liquids line near Parachute Creek.

“Equipment failure and accidents happen all of the time, and that’s why we need to keep drilling rigs away from sensitive areas, like riparian zones, water bodies, irrigation systems, cropland and ranches, and homes and schools,” the group said.

Alvillar said WPX handled the incident responsibly.

“I think that’s the key to being able to operate, is we just have to expect human and mechanical failures from time to time. It happens and the response is what’s the important thing,” she said.

No. It’s not. Response is NOT the most important thing. Accidents don’t just happen. They are caused by any number of things related to poor management practices. There is such a thing as a perfect safety record. Lots of companies strive for it.

We’re not stupid. We understand the basic principles of safety.  Recognize and control hazards before they ever impact your business. Keep all equipment in good working order and do regular inspections.

According to the COGCC website, since July 11, 2012, WPX Energy has reported 14 spills/releases in Garfield County. In 2011, they reported more than 50 spills/releases.

In what other industry are this many “accidents,” this kind of sloppiness allowed?

What about the COGCC? Executive Director Matt Lepore keeps touting Best Management Practices. I would hardly call regular spills/releases best management practices.

As of May 1, 2013, the COGCC 100 Series Definitions defines Best Management Practices (BMPs) as “practices that are designed to prevent or reduce impacts caused by oil and gas operations to air, water, soil, or biological resources, and to minimize adverse impacts to public health, safety and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources.”

Interestingly, in September 2012, CDPHE Oil & Gas Liaison Kent Kuster wrote to Thomas Kerr at the COGCC and requested (among other things) that the definition of BMPs be updated to reflect the BLM’s definition:

CDPHE notes the following definition exists on the BLM website:

Best management practices (BMPs) are state-of-the-art mitigation measures applied to oil and natural gas drilling and production to help ensure that energy development is conducted in an environmentally responsible manner. BMPs protect wildlife, air quality, and landscapes as we work to develop vitally needed domestic energy sources.

Looks like that didn’t happen.

Nonetheless, even by the COGCC’s mild definition of the term, you can’t accuse WPX Energy of Best Management Practices.

Apparently the WPX approach to BMPs is a mop and a pail.

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One Comment on “WPX benzene spill south of Silt”

  1. Carl Mc Williams Says:

    FYI: Below is a “copy & paste” of my email dated April 18, 2013 to COGCC Director Matt Lepore asking him for the COGCC definition of “BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES” and Lepore’s April 19, 2013 email response:

    Based upon Bob Arrington’s assessment of the WPX “produced water” spill in Sunday’s John Colson article in the POST INDEPENDENT; WPX has committed the “Acts and Omissions of Negligence in violating the COGCC Rule of “BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES”.

    However, as I have written in this blog on numerous occasions: THE COGCC is a “CAPTURED AGENCY” and therefore the O&G Industry in Colorado operates under the impunity of “MORAL HAZARD”.

    But wait, there is a solution – SEE THIS LINK:


    From: Matt Lepore – DNR
    To: Carl McWilliams
    Sent: Friday, April 19, 2013 6:36 PM

    Mr. Carl McWilliams:
    Silt, Colorado

    COGCC Rules define Best Management Practices as: “practices that are designed to prevent or reduce impacts caused by oil and gas operations to air water, soil, or biological resources, and to minimize adverse impacts to public health, safety and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources.”

    For future reference, all of our Rules, which include defined terms, are available on our web site.



    Matthew Lepore
    Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

    From: Carl McWilliams [mailto:mcwilliams_carl@yahoo.com]
    Sent: Thursday, April 18, 2013 9:55 AM
    To: Matt Lepore Esq.
    Matt Lepore – DNR

    Matt Lepore, Esq.
    Executive Director
    Denver, Colorado


    Dear Mr. Lepore:

    Would you please email to me the COGCC definition of: BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES.

    Thank you in advance for your valuable time in responding to my request.

    Carl Mc Williams
    Silt, Colorado 81652

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