Natural-gas liquid is gushing near a Colorado creek, and nobody can figure out how to stop it
An unidentified “liquid natural-gas product” is flowing freely into the shallow ground near a creekside gas processing plant in rural western Colorado. After 11 days of cleanup operations and investigations, the source and precise contents of the toxic spill remain a mystery.
Officials at Williams Energy, the presumed culprit in the spill, have not been able to locate the source of the leak, so they have been unable to staunch the flow of underground pollution that is threatening to contaminate Parachute Creek.
More than 60,000 gallons of hydrocarbon gunk have so far been sucked up using vacuum-equipped trucks. The underground pollution plume is believed to have grown to at least 200 feet by 170 feet and is at least 14 feet deep.
The town of Parachute, Colo., home to roughly 1,000 people, closed a headgate that’s used to divert creek water into a drinking water reservoir. That step was a precaution in case the waterway becomes contaminated.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday was in the process of formally ordering the Williams energy company — which runs a gas-processing plant on the creek — to do all in its power to protect surface water. State regulators who on Friday ordered the same now are preparing to issue Williams a “Notice of Alleged Violation” and demand a long-term cleanup plan.
The situation near Parachute is worrying. But the good news is that such oil spills are rare in Colorado, where fracking companies slowly and safely extract gas from the state’s energy-rich shale in a responsible manner.
That ain’t how things actually go when oil and gas companies are involved. Yee haw. From the same article:
It is among the worst of recent spills reported in a part of western Colorado traditionally known for fruit orchards and green pastures — now home to what are meant to be heavily regulated industrial facilities.
“I’ve had to accept it,” said cattleman Rick Bumgardner, whose 200 cows graze along Parachute Creek. His family homesteaded in the area. Over the past year, a leak from a storage tank and another from a gas compressor station affected his cattle operations, Bumgardner said.
“If I had my choice, I’d just as soon be someplace away from here, but I guess I couldn’t afford it,” he said.
Nobody notified him about this spill or the others, he said. Oil and gas companies “try to beat it back, hope nobody finds them. That’s the way they operate.”
Get Grist in your inbox