Ursa’s VP Don Simpson was caught off guard by a January 12th letter from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) restating its opposition to proposed plans to locate an injection well in Battlement Mesa on the Colorado River. Last month, at the behest of Ursa Resources, Battlement Mesa Partners submitted an application to the Garfield County planning commission to approve a change in the language of Battlement Mesa’s founding PUD document to allow for oil and gas wastewater injection wells within the community.
In his letter to Garfield County Senior Planner Glenn Hartmann, CDPHE environmental specialist Kent Kuster quoted from his February 29th letter to the COGCC which raised concerns about the location of a Class II injection well on the proposed B pad:
“URSA’s BMC B well pad includes a Class II injection well with six produced water storage tanks that the Department believes creates a significant contamination risk to the public water supply for Battlement Mesa. The Battlement Mesa Water Treatment Plant has a raw water intake structure in close proximity to this proposed well pad, creating an unnecessary long-term risk for a spill or release to potentially impact the public water supply. This risk will persist for many years, and will continue as additional well sites are developed in Battlement Mesa area. There are options available when determining a location for a Class II injection well and the Department believes Class II injection wells should not be located in Urban Mitigation Areas.”
After considering the long-term risk to the public water supply and the flexibility available to the Operator when locating Class II injection wells the Department recommends that the COGCC deny the permit for the injection well and the associated storage tanks on the URSA BMC B well pad.”
Kuster’s recent letter to Garfield County goes on to say:
“This recommendation has not changed and the Department believes URSA has not adequately demonstrated why this location, in close proximity to a drinking water intake, must be used for an injection well. Therefore, the Department would recommend that Garfield County require URSA to provide an alternative analysis investigation specifically for potential locations of any proposed injection well.”
In an article in the Daily Sentinel, GVCA’s Leslie Robinson praised the CDPHE’s recommendation saying, “It’s great that they’re supporting us on this issue.”
… Robinson and activists in Battlement Mesa want to talk to Ursa about possible locations not next to a water source.
“If it’s contaminated it could affect up to 5,000 people,” she said …
BCC’s Dave Devanney wrote in an email to From the Styx: “It is encouraging to see that at least ONE state agency is supporting Colorado residential communities against the onslaught of the O&G industry.”
Shaken and stirred
Recent earthquakes that shook the region have stirred up concerns among Battlement Mesa residents. A 2.9 magnitude earthquake was reported south of New Castle on Christmas night. Residents in the Marble area experienced a swarm of 1.1 to 2.8 magnitude earthquakes which occurred over a 12-hour span between 5:41 p.m. and 5:26 a.m. on January 19 and 20.
In his letter to the planning department Bob Arrington, P.E. and Battlement Mesa resident, raised concerns about earthquakes citing inadequate fault maps for the Battlement Mesa area:
Geologic study is incomplete for this area. Faults have not been mapped. URS [Corporation] mapped the Silt area for faults that have not been updated on maps referenced in Ursa submittals. The program undertaken by WPX a few years ago showed the companies do not have adequate information. And decision makers have even less to make sound decisions. The injection wells have been proposed for the Iles formations above the Mancos. While this may be beneficial to pressure production in the fracked Williams Fork lenses, it poses new problems for production in Iles and the Mancos and pressure plus fluids on the subsurface basement faults. These injection fluids and pressure recorded to travel miles and cause earthquakes. Even lower rated earthquakes could cause failure in the terraces above the river on which Battlement Mesa sits.
Click here to read full text of Arrington’s letter.
Click here to view a close-up of the USGS Geologic Map of the Precambrian Basement in Colorado that shows two projected basement faults that join a rectangular block fault zone near Debeque.
Flood of concern
Last week Battlement Mesa residents endured several days of round-the-clock, noisy, heavy truck traffic to and from the B pad site. On Monday, after several complaints had been registered, residents received an email from Summit Midstream, owners, builders, and operators of the 2.5 mile pipeline that’s part of Ursa’s Phase I drilling plan.
Construction manager Cameron Bingham explained the reason for the increased truck traffic through the community:
On Wednesday afternoon [January 18], while boring from the future B pad location to the D pad locations, we encountered an underground spring or artesian well of some sort. Our pilot bore hole was approximately 1450’ in and only had about 100’ left from being completed, when we started getting water running back down our pilot bore. Summit and our contractors where able to contain the water and bring in frack tanks and trucks to haul off the water, but it meant increased truck traffic and having to work 24 hours per day.
Summit and its contractors worked on solutions to slow or stop the water flow over the past four days, but we have been unsuccessful to date. We have had the water tested and it is ground water and will not impact the community or the environment. We have received anywhere from 250-300 barrels per hour, or about 6000-7000 barrels per day, which we are capturing in tanks and hauling it out with trucks.
On Friday and Saturday, we continued to receive snow and rain, which made the working area very slick and muddy. We worked on keeping it as safe as possible, but had to start bringing in rock to put down to make the driving conditions safe and to be able to keep up with the water. Unfortunately, this meant gravel was being delivered late Saturday through Sunday which created extra noise and traffic.
This week Ursa’s Simpson told the Daily Sentinel that Summit Midstream has the groundwater leak under control.
Seven thousand barrels of water per day is not a leak. It’s a flood.
According to Bob Arrington, this incident illustrates his point that Ursa’s design and engineering data was incomplete at best, writing in his letter:
Design and engineering has been sketchy, and as was pointed out in the COGCC testimony, hazards overlooked, applicable failure missed, and even now the pipeline boring operation has hit an underground water source that was not recognized. By their admission, it is flowing 6000 to 7000 barrels of water/day. It has the face of the terrace in danger of failure and gravel being imported to solidify working area surfaces. See Summit Midstream email …
Alternatives to this are straightforward. Although Ursa has stated if not injection on sites, it would require truck traffic through Battlement. And this has happened anyway with the Pad B bore gusher …
He goes on to suggest an alternate pipeline route to a disposal site located a safe distance from basement faults and the Colorado River. Click here for the full text, maps and diagrams.
Leslie Robinson told the Daily Sentinel, “Our concern is how many other groundwater sources are streaming through Battlement Mesa that could be affected by pipeline construction.”
Stand with Battlement Mesa residents.
Attend the Planning Commission meeting and ask them to deny this permit.
February 8, 2017
Garfield County Community Development Dept
108 8th Street, Suite 401
Glenwood Springs, CO