Parachute Creek spill: Day 200

Benzene Isoconcentration 8/16/2013

Benzene Isoconcentration 8/16/2013

Click here for a larger version of this map

The update below is posted at Garfield County’s Parachute Creek webpage. It was copied from the Williams/Bargath Weekly Status Report for September 2-8, 2013, which can be found at the CDPHE Parachute Creek website under “Documents,” then Williams Weekly Status Reports. I lifted the map above from the same report.


Analytical results since August 1, 2013 for sample locations are summarized on the Attachment B Parachute Creek Surface Water Sample Results table (note: samples were not collected from all sample locations on all days).

[Click here, and scroll through the report to find Attachment B]

Town of Parachute Diversion Point and the HOD Diversion Point
Surface water samples were collected from the Town of Parachute’s diversion point and the HOD diversion point twice during the week (Monday and Thursday). The samples collected on Thursday, September 5, 2013 and Monday September 9, 2013 were non-detect (less than 1 mg/L) for BTEX. Results for samples collected on Thursday, September 12, 2013 have not been received from the laboratory, but will be reported in the next weekly report.

Creek Samples UG2, CS1 through CS9
Surface water samples were collected from UG2, CS1, CS2, CS3, CS5, and CS5B once during the week (Monday, September 9, 2013) and all results were non-detect (less than 1 mg/L) for BTEX.

Surface water samples were collected from CS6, CS7, and CS8 twice during the week (Tuesday and Thursday). All results from Thursday, September 5, 2013 and Monday, September 9, 2013 were nondetect (less than 1 mg/L) for BTEX. Results for samples collected on Thursday, September 12, 2013 have not been received from the laboratory, but will be reported in the next weekly report.

Williams Testing Results


Ok, so blah, blah, blah. What-ever.

We all know by now that the Parachute Creek spill is about a whole lot more than the testing results from surface water samples in CS1 through CS9. There is an underground hydrocarbon plume that looks – from the map above – to be nearly half the size of Harvey Gap and it is either slowly or rapidly leeching BTEXs into the aquifer — depending on the weather.

Oh I know, there’s always the good old dilution factor. The experts see the rain as a dispersant, diluting the hydrocarbons, and flushing them downstream. (For someone else to worry about.) The way I see it is that perfectly good, clean rainwater gets polluted when it hits the earth and comes in contact with the hydrocarbons.

Because no matter what. Rain or shine. Dilution or dispersion. There’s a hydrocarbon loch ness monster in the ground north of Parachute. It’s not getting any smaller. And it’s not going away any time soon.

But hey. That’s not actually why I posted this update.

I wanted to show you something I googled on the way to something else. This will blow your minds.

First let me set it up for you. While doing research for my post about the hazardous waste dump in Garfield County, I googled PDC – Petroleum Development Corp. Such an original name for an O&G operator. Bet nobody asks them, “So what do you do exactly?”

I found this article in the Denver Business Journal – June 19, 2013:

PDC Energy agrees to pay fracking-spill fine, completes asset sale

Denver’s PDC Energy Inc. has agreed to pay a $35,000 fine — more than three times Colorado’s statutory limit — in connection with the release of about 84,000 gallons of “flowback” hydraulic fracturing solution from a well east of Fort Collins in February.

According to current limits in state law, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which oversees industry operations in the state, figured it only could have imposed a $9,000 fine on the company, COGCC Director Matt Lepore said Wednesday.

State law allows maximum oil and gas industry fines of $1,000 per day per violation.

Denver-based PDC (Nasdaq: PDCE) did an “exemplary” job of responding to the spill, containing it and cleaning it up, Lepore said.

And, he said, the spill was caused by a mechanical failure, something that’s not necessarily a violation of the COGCC’s rules.

“This points out that our statutory authority is outdated, and that’s not a surprise to anyone — including the operators,” Lepore said.

Lepore said he called PDC about to discuss the spill, and the fine, and praised them for the work they did responding to the spill …

… “But nonetheless, you had an event that resulted in a very large amount of produced water escaping from the well and that’s not the standard that we accept,” Lepore said he told the company. “We’re trying to set very high standards for operators and we’re going to propose a penalty that exceeds our statutory authority.”

PDC agreed to pay a $35,000 fine and also promised the commission it would arrange and pay for three training classes in Weld County, titled “Effective Strategies & Tactics for Municipal Responders.”


I felt like I had glimpsed an alternate reality. I read the article three times. I mean, I tell everybody that Garfield County is like living in the Third World. But this – this is like Garfield County is on a whole nother planet entirely.

(FYI, further down the page in the same article is where I found the announcement that PDC closed the deal for the sale of its Piceance Basin assets to Caerus O&G, which is the part that relates to the hazardous waste dump.)

So here’s The Coloradoan article about the spill that resulted in the $35,000 fine: 2,000 barrels of frack water spilled at oil well east of Fort Collins

And what was the cause of the spill, pray tell?

“a mechanical failure caused a valve to break”

Wow — same as the Parachute Creek spill. What a coincidence!

Quoting now from a May 16 article in The Daily Sentinel about the Parachute Creek spill [emphasis added]:
“On Wednesday, the health department said the division, Williams and Williams subsidiary Bargath LLC, had agreed to enter into a consent order governing the leak investigation and cleanup. It provided that Williams won’t be fined under the order because the leak resulted from accidental equipment failure rather than negligence.”

Let me get this straight. PDC was fined BECAUSE of a mechanical failure. But Williams WILL NOT be fined because of an equipment failure.

Makes no fracking sense at all.

OBTW, then there’s this little nugget at the bottom of The Coloradoan article:

PDC Energy has been involved in numerous spills over the years, most dramatically last June southeast of Eaton when the equivalent of about 30 barrels of crude oil was seen flowing down a dirt road leading to an oil well PDC was working on.

The spill forced the removal of 22 cubic yards of dirt and 1,380 barrels of contaminated pond water. The incident forced the U.S. military’s National Response Center to mobilize.

Gees. PDC is a real peach of an operator. No wonder they need a soil decontaminator. These guys are total slobs. Glad they sold their Piceance assets to Caerus O&G.

Or are we? More on Caerus at a later date …

And we still don’t know if PDC is actually involved in the Metcalf/Caerus permit application for the hazardous waste dump. So there’s that.

As for PDC getting fined $35,000 and Williams/Bargath getting nada? Absolutely inexplicable. I’m gobsmacked.

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