More troubled waters overflow at Battlement Mesa pipeline site

ursa_pipeline-2-24-17

Site of the new B Pad where a second underground water breach and overflow occurred on February 23. [Photo taken on February 24 and submitted by Battlement Mesa resident]

*Photos added on 2/24/17 at 2:00 p.m.

*Updated 7:47 p.m.

Members of Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC) and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA) notified From the Styx about an alert they received Thursday morning from Garfield County oil & gas liaison Kirby Wynn. Wynn reported that a second event involving underground water has occurred along Summit Midstream’s pipeline route to the B Pad. Residents are reporting increased truck traffic and a line of tankers. Wynn indicated that stream flow is being directed to the Colorado River.

*Thursday night BCC co-chair Dave Devanney said in an email to BM residents:

“At the BCC meeting today, there was a lengthy discussion about the current pipeline project problems. Bob Arrington raised many questions that there are currently no answers for. [Bob Arrington is our resident P.E. — pipeline engineer.] In previous comments about the pipeline project, Bob raised concerns that seem to have not been addressed. It now appears that whatever steps that might have prevented the current situation, were not taken. The second bore was supposed to have been modified to avoid the groundwater problem. It appears that did not happen. And residents are not feeling confident about the outcome of this project.

“Therefore, it was proposed that BCC/GVCA request a meeting with Ursa, Summit Midstream, county staff and Bob Arrington to address the current problems, resolutions and potential future problems. The residents are getting more and more anxious about the risks, for example, of the hillside washing down over River Bluff Road — the only access to the water/wastewater plants.”

Why is the overflow being discharged into the Colorado River?

According to a February 1st article in the Daily Sentinel, last month after Summit Midstream workers breached an aquifer while boring the pipeline hole from the B Pad to the D Pad causing a deluge of water lasting more than two weeks, the company obtained a permit from the state Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) to discharge the stream of overflow water into the Colorado River to keep from trucking the water offsite.

*Thursday night a Battlement resident emailed From the Styx to say:

“[There] are many tanker trucks lined up to move the water from the fracking tanks to wherever they are taking it. The reason that they are using the trucks is because there was too much volume of water for the small drainage ditch leading to the river that they had been using. If this doesn’t make sense, please ask a hydrologist to explain. “

Tankers line up along River Bluff Road to make hairpin turn onto access road leading to B Pad site where a second underground water breach and overflow occurred on February 23. [Photo taken on February 24 and submitted by Battlement Mesa resident]

Tankers line up along River Bluff Road to make hairpin turn onto access road leading to B Pad site where a second underground water breach and overflow occurred on February 23. [Photo taken on February 24 and submitted by Battlement Mesa resident]

Lillian Gonzalez, permit manager for the WQCD, told the Sentinel:

… the Summit Midstream permit was issued under an assumption that the groundwater isn’t contaminated. That’s based on the fact that there’s no known nearby groundwater contamination in the area.

However, Summit is required to test the water for acidity, oil and grease, and total dissolved and suspended solids, and must limit the discharge to 400 gallons per minute, or 576,000 gallons a day.

Therefore, Summit Midstream is currently allowed to discharge stream overflow into the Colorado River from this latest underground water breach under their permit from WQCD. But it’s up to Summit Midstream to test the water for contamination and limit the amount of water discharged.

Industry self-monitoring with no perceivable local governmental oversight.

BCC/GVCA issued this statement on Thursday: “Right now, we have no reason to doubt that the water quality of the underground stream has been compromised, except for mud and silt. We’re more concerned about fresh water sources being plugged up so they can’t reach the Colorado River.”

The news of this new flood comes on the heels of the revelation in Thursday morning’s Post Independent that Wynn essentially told Nathan Moore, the state’s clean water compliance unit manager, regarding the stormwater management problems with the Battlement pipeline installation there’s nothing to see here, everything is under control.

In the January 27th letter to Wynn, COGCC environmental manager Greg Deranleau described in detail, with photos, problems with inadequate topsoil protection and poor stormwater control during pipeline construction at two new well pad sites in Battlement Mesa. The county never informed Battlement residents about the letter. Instead a resident stumbled upon it the COGCC website last week, nearly a month later.

In addition to pointing out “insufficient BMPs” (best management practices) that will put the two well pads in non-compliance with COGCC rules once Ursa takes over operations, Deranleau recommended further review and inspection of the well pad sites by the state’s Water Quality Control Division:

“COGCC recommends that the County refer the sites to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Water Quality Control Division (CDPHE-WQCD) for review and inspection.”

Naturally residents assumed the county would follow up with WQCD and set up that review and inspection. But that’s not what happened.

Water regulators decided not to inspect Battlement pipeline site

State water quality regulators said Wednesday they won’t visit a Battlement Mesa site where an oil and gas environmental manager expressed concern about sloppy pipeline installation work …

… The pipeline is being installed, in part, inside Battlement Mesa residential boundaries in preparation for natural gas drilling by Ursa Resources.

Kirby Wynn, Garfield County oil and gas liaison, told the Post Independent for a story published Wednesday that the county had not contacted the Water Quality Control Division, choosing to work directly with Summit. On Wednesday morning, he clarified that the county had in fact reached out to the agency, but the division said it did not have sufficient resources to investigate.

Nathan Moore, clean water compliance unit manager, said the division has adequate resources to address complaints with specific environmental impact, but concluded that the Battlement site did not pose an ongoing environmental concern based on what it was told by the county.

“The resources that we have need to be focused on environmental impacts, and we try to hit the sites where existing environmental concerns are present,” he explained. “The information that I obtained was that the county believed that the necessary changes were being made.”

He added that Deranleau’s report was based on concerns that were no longer present and, from what he was told, things were already being cleaned up.

He did add, however, that if the county becomes aware of additional concerns at the site, it should contact the division immediately …

In an email to BM residents which was posted yesterday on this blog, Wynn neglected to mention that he had contacted WQCD and told them to stand down. Nor did he say he was planning to contact them. From the Styx has received no information from sources that Wynn has communicated with BM residents about his contact with Nathan Moore at WQCD. Presumably they read about it this morning’s paper like everybody else.

Wynn also lied to the PI when he said WQCD didn’t have enough inspectors:

… On Wednesday morning, he clarified that the county had in fact reached out to the agency, but the division said it did not have sufficient resources to investigate.

Nathan Moore, clean water compliance unit manager, said the division has adequate resources to address complaints with specific environmental impact …

From the Styx contacted Nathan Moore at WQCD by email this morning asking for more clarification regarding the decision not to conduct a separate CDPHE-WQCD inspection.

Moore responded promptly with this explanation:

“Just to clarify the authority of the Water Quality Control Division, we have authority to permit and regulate discharges from oil and gas operations to surface waters of the state. So, our review was focused on that issue. COGCC is the state agency with the authority to regulate potential groundwater impacts, as well as many of the other environmental concerns highlighted in the letter, such as maintaining topsoil for future site remediation.”

When asked if he had seen the COGCC letter and photos to Garfield County, Moore wrote:

“The letter and attachments did identify concerns with stormwater management, but it was my understanding that those issues were being addressed and COGCC intended to follow up with another visit to the site. At this point, I have not heard back from the county or COGCC about ongoing concerns with potential surface water quality impacts from this site. We will reach out to COGCC to inquire about what they found during that second site visit and if they identified ongoing concerns with stormwater management. I will be doing that as soon as I hit send on this email.”

“[T]hat second site visit?” The COGCC letter didn’t mention a second visit. BCC/GVCA members are likewise unaware of any communications from the county concerning a second site visit by COGCC.

Moore said he was not aware of discharges of contaminated water into the Colorado River from the pipeline construction site associated with a January 18 flood event. Though he added:

“Also, please let me know if you have any additional information on other potential discharges to surface water from this site that may be causing water quality concerns. We are very interested in information you can provide us. Pictures are always very helpful as well.”

With this ongoing flooding situation at the pipeline construction site the potential exists for contaminants to mix in with groundwater overflow and stormwater runoff and reach the Colorado River through the discharged water flow. Yet BM residents must rely on Summit Midstream to monitor the water for contaminants with little to no local or state governmental enforcement.

Battlement residents deserve the oversight from Garfield County necessary to protect public health, safety, water and air quality, and the environment. This is not too much to ask. Instead they are at the mercy of a county official who has been withholding vital information, lying to the media and probably the state while covering up for Ursa and Summit Midstream.

Every morning BM residents awaken to some fresh horror in their residential-neighborhood-turned-industrial-site which they are compelled to investigate because it is incumbent upon them to provide the necessary evidence on account of Garfield County has abandoned them.

Battlement Mesa residents ought to hear the message loud and clear. They’re on their own now …

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