UPDATE September 23: Caerus Oil & Gas LLC, will be having a community meeting to further explain their planned operation on the Metcalf property on Tuesday, October 8, 2013, 6:00 PM at the GVFPD Fire Station on Stone Quarry Road.
An article appeared in today’s Post Independent about a permit application that had already raised the red flags out here in western Garfield County: Company proposes ‘pug mill’ near Parachute to clean contaminated soils.
Before I get into what the article says, let’s go back to two weeks ago.
On Friday, September 6, Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens chair Dave Devanney sent out an email to alert activists about a legal notice that appeared in the Citizen Telegram on September 5. Click here to read the legal notice.
“[A] company called Metcalf Property Management wants a permit from the county to build a facility to remove hydrocarbons from contaminated soil.
“They would use something called a pugmill to aerate the soil and the spread the soil on site for processing. I wonder where the hydrocarbons go?
“They want to do this on a 35 acre site adjacent to 5091 Stone Quarry Road. I believe that to be somewhere across from the RV Park and Tamarisk Meadows.
“I also noticed another permit request from another company that wants to do the same thing outside of Parachute. I wonder if this is a new industry blooming to cleanup soil from places like the ‘Parachute Plume’?”
On Sunday, September 8, Battlement Mesa resident Garry Evenson sent out this email message to Devanney and a few of his neighbors:
“I was out walking my dog and was talking to a man who lives here. When I told him about what was happening concerning the Metcalf application and where it would be located he said he was acquainted with someone who up until 2 years ago had worked for Metcalf on Piceance Creek where they were working on the contaminated soils from the drilling operations there. He said that the worker told him that they were using chemicals to treat the soil which created white clouds of vapors and that the workers had to wear full chemical suits and gas masks. He said we should see if they were going to do the same thing here and even if they don’t the contaminated soil is still dangerous. He seemed to be very concerned about what was happening.”
Evenson contacted Garfield County to inquire about the Metcalf permit application. He received this email response from GarCo Senior Planner Kathy Eastley on Monday, September 9:
I am the planner reviewing the request submitted by Metcalf Property Management on behalf of PDC Energy / Caerus Picenance[sic] LLC who are the proposed operators of the facility.
Basically the request is the allow PDC to bring petroleum contaminated soils from their operations on the Piceance to the site for remediation and, once ‘cleaned’, PDC would transport the soils back to the Piceance for reuse in their Oil & Gas operations.
The site will be used only when necessary – when they have soils that need to be remediated. The process that they propose includes mixing the soil with water and biocides using a PugMill (a piece of machinery) to aerate the mixture. They will then test the soil and if additional processing is necessary they will spread it on the ground in a lined area on the site which would allow the remediation process to continue until the soils meet minimum standards of chemical composition.
The applicants propose is that the site will remain vacant until they need to remediate soils, at which time they will bring in all the equipment that they need for the process. Of course once the process is completed they will remove everything from the site until they have need for it again.
This is a basic description of the application – please feel free to contact me if you would like to set up a time to review the documents in our office. As well, a copy has been provided to the Battlement Mesa Service Association and you may be able to review their copy rather than driving to Glenwood.
The application is scheduled to be reviewed by the Planning Commission on October 9, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. At that time the Planning Commission will review the application and make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners on whether to approve, approve with conditions or deny the request. Once this recommendation is received the Board of County Commissioner hearing will be scheduled (I would assume in late November or early December in order to meet minimum 30 days notice). You may forward any comments to me – yes, an email will work. Any comments received will become part of the “record” which is the information forwarded to the decision makes. You may also attend the hearing where you will be able to provide comments as well.
Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Kathy Eastley, AICP
Garfield County Community Development
Let’s stop here and take a look at this sentence from Eastley’s email: “The process that they propose includes mixing the soil with water and biocides using a PugMill (a piece of machinery) to aerate the mixture.”
Among other things, Wikipedia says this about biocides:
A biocide is a chemical substance or microorganism which can deter, render harmless, or exert a controlling effect on any harmful organism by chemical or biological means. Biocides are commonly used in medicine, agriculture, forestry, and industry …
Hazards and environmental risks
Because biocides are intended to kill living organisms, many biocidal products pose significant risk to human health and welfare. Great care is required when handling biocides and appropriate protective clothing and equipment should be used. The use of biocides can also have significant adverse effects on the natural environment. Anti-fouling paints, especially those utilising organic tin compounds such as TBT, have been shown to have severe and long-lasting impacts on marine eco-systems and such materials are now banned in many countries for commercial and recreational vessels (though sometimes still used for naval vessels).
Disposal of used or unwanted biocides must be undertaken carefully to avoid serious and potentially long-lasting damage to the environment.
Bob Arrington* also added to the email discussion with a photo and comment about pugmills:
“Hydrocarbon contaminated soils are aerated to allow the hydrocarbons to evaporate. Breaking up the clumping and adding detergents or acetones or other ‘release agent’ could break up heavier hydrocarbons as oil, diesel and gasoline as the material passes through. The adding of ‘release agents’ like this could be what a later account describes as ‘white vapors.’ This is a direct way to create ozone and acid rains by putting VOCs into the air.”
“A pugmill or pug mill is a machine in which materials are simultaneously ground and (and can be) mixed with a liquid. Industrial applications are found in pottery, bricks, cement and some parts of the concrete and asphalt mixing processes. A pugmill is a fast continuous mixer. A continuous pugmill can achieve a thoroughly mixed, homogeneous mixture in a few seconds. Mixing materials at optimum moisture content requires the forced mixing action of the pugmill paddles, while soupy materials might be mixed in a drum mixer. A typical pugmill consists of a horizontal boxlike chamber with a top inlet and a bottom discharge at the other end, 2 shafts with opposing paddles, and a drive assembly. Some of the factors affecting mixing and residence time are the number and the size of the paddles, paddle swing arc, overlap of left and right swing arc, size of mixing chamber, length of pugmill floor, and material being mixed.”
[*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.]
Now let’s go back to the PI story —
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — An energy company has applied to Garfield County for permission to set up and operate a “pug mill,” which operates much as a cement mixer does, but to clean up soils carrying contamination from oil and gas activities.
The Metcalf Soil Treatment Facility, which would be located just west of the Battlement Mesa mobile home park on County Road 300 (Stone Quarry Road), would operate only when there is contaminated soil to be cleaned up from the activities of the Caerus Oil and Gas LLC.
Caerus, which reportedly is active in oil and gas drilling in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma, recently purchased the Piceance Basin assets of the Petroleum Development Corp., which originally submitted the pug mill application on Sept. 3.
Caerus now has assumed control of the pug-mill application, according to county officials. Representatives of Caerus Oil and Gas could not be reached Thursday for comment.
A hearing was set for Oct. 9 before the county planning and zoning commission, but the county’s senior planner, Kathy Eastley, said it has been postponed to give Caerus representatives time to meet with residents of Battlement Mesa.
The P&Z hearing is now set for Nov. 13, Eastley said.
First of all there’s some confusion here about the public hearing, originally scheduled for October 9. I emailed Eastley and asked if the October 9 hearing had been cancelled.
Eastley replied: “The applicant has requested that the public hearing, currently scheduled for October 9th, be continued to November 13th. The Planning Commission will consider this request and made a decision on the 9th on whether the hearing will be re-scheduled. Typically the Commission will grant this type of request. There are several methods by which you can provide comments on an application – you may send a letter or email to me with your comments and/or you may attend the hearing and speak to the Planning Commission regarding the project … We will be uploading the application information to our website so that the public can access the submittal information, this will probably be completed sometime next week.”
Ok, so we assume the public hearing will be continued to November 13.
Regarding this statement in the article: “Kathy Eastley, said it has been postponed to give Caerus representatives time to meet with residents of Battlement Mesa.” When this blog post was published (9/20) there was no information about a meeting with Battlement Mesa residents — see update added to the beginning of this post.
And there’s a whole lot more confusion surrounding this permit application.
According to the public notice, Metcalf Property Management is the company that filed the permit application. In Eastley’s email to Garry Evenson on 9/9/13 [above], she said the permit application was “submitted by Metcalf Property Management on behalf of PDC Energy/Caerus Piceance LLC who are the proposed operators of the facility.”
But PDC (Petroleum Development Corp) and Caerus Oil and Gas are not mentioned in the public notice. And according to the Denver Business Journal, on June 19, 2013, PDC announced “it had closed a previously announced sale of $185 million worth of natural gas assets in western Colorado to Denver’s Caerus Oil and Gas LLC.”
However, the PI article says: “Petroleum Development Corp … originally submitted the pug mill application on Sept. 3.”
If PDC had already closed the deal to sell their Piceance assets to Caerus in June, why did they submit the permit application on September 3?
“Caerus now has assumed control of the pug-mill application, according to county officials.”
If Caerus Oil and Gas is now the permit applicant, has the original permit application been revised? Or was a new permit application submitted by Caerus?
I emailed Eastley requesting some clarification. I’ll let you know what she says.*
According to the applications documents, the pug mill would be set up on less than 10 acres of a 35-acre parcel of private property, owned by Metcalf Property Management.
Ok, so Metcalf Property Management owns the land. But if Caerus Oil and Gas will be operating the “Metcalf Soil Treatment Facility” then why didn’t they file the permit application? Why did Metcalf file the permit application? And why is it called the “Metcalf Soil Treatment Facility” when it will be operated by Caerus?
*UPDATE: Eastley responded on Monday, September 23:
“Metcalf Property Management LLC is the owner of the land and therefore the ‘official’ applicant as Garfield County requires that the property owner be the ultimate responsible party in land use. PDC was proposed to be the operator of the facility but, as you are aware, Caerus has acquired some of their assets. The County was told early in the application process that this transaction was going to occur and we were provided notice that the official operator of the facility will be now be Caerus.”
BTW, Caerus Oil and Gas has only been in business since 2009.
Then there is this little gem from the PI article:
The property is split by the Colorado River, and according to Eastley the northern portion is about 14-15 acres in size, of which 9 acres or so would be used for the actual operation of the pug mill and its ancillary equipment
Now I refer back to Eastley’s 9/9 email to Garry Evenson [above].
Eastley wrote: “The process that they propose includes mixing the soil with water and biocides using a PugMill (a piece of machinery) to aerate the mixture They will then test the soil and if additional processing is necessary they will spread it on the ground in a lined area on the site which would allow the remediation process to continue until the soils meet minimum standards of chemical composition.”
Yes, that’s right. The Colorado River runs right through the Metcalf property and they are planning to spread contaminated soil in the area for “remediation.” I believe the technical terms are “solidification” and “stabilization.” But why quibble over terminology at this point when there is so much else WRONG with this permit application, I could just puke.
And wait — there’s more!
Remember in Dave Devanney’s 9/6 email he mentioned something about a second permit.
So says Eastley in the PI story:
A second soil remediation site, Eastley said, has been proposed for a location about 8 miles east of Parachute on the old U.S. Highway 6, close to the Rulison interchange for Interstate 70.
That site, Eastley said, does not call for a pug mill.
Interesting. Where’s the public notice on that permit application? Who filed it? Metcalf? PDC? Caerus? All three? Or is that second site covered in the same permit application at the first site?
Instead, she explained, the Highway 6 site would rely on spreading the contaminated soils out on the ground, mixed with the same kind of microbes used in the Metcalf site. This passive process is meant to consume the hydrocarbons mingled with the soils, and “let nature do its work,” Eastley said.
It is the spreading of contaminated soils on the ground, Eastley said, that may prompt some concerns among the P&Z members and the Board of County Commissioners.
The BOCC might be concerned about “the spreading of contaminated soils on the ground.” Really? They argued about an asphalt plant for a year, yet nothing else concerns them about this permit application.
There is plenty here to “prompt some concerns.”
- Does the Colorado River run through it?
- What is meant by the “same kind of microbes”?
- Does that mean they will spread biocides?
- Will Caerus contract with other companies to accept their contaminated soil? Like Williams/Bargath, WPX, Anadarko, and Suncor?
- Will truckloads of contaminated soil stream in from the Uintah Basin and the Denver-Julesberg Basin?
This is the screwiest public notification and permitting process I’ve ever witnessed. It raises far more questions than answers. The only reason we know about the permit application is because Dave Devanney happened to see the public notice and brought it to our attention. The only reason John Colson wrote the article is because Bob Arrington sent him the email chain reprinted in this post. Now it looks like Caerus and the BOCC were trying to slip this permit through while no one was paying attention but Colson started asking questions and so they’re backtracking.
If anyone else has a better explanation for this chicanery, bring it on.
You see, this is what happens when the BOCC guts the land use codes. They’re going to turn Western Garfield County into a hazardous waste dump.
Send your questions or comments (by mail or email) about this permit application (or applications?) to:
Kathy Eastley, AICP
Garfield County Community Development
108 8th Street, #401
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601