Drilled and Fracked: Colorado STILL flooding and it is coming soon to a town near you

September 28, 2013
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The once and hopefully future Colorado

The once and hopefully future Colorado Fall

 

I know, this was all over for the country last week when the sun broke, Colorado, New Mexico and the  Navajo Nation all dried up, flowers bloomed and everything right back to normal..

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Cold Creek Canyon is beyond merely damaged, the people are now being asked to drop off water samples for testing. Gas, oil (both crude and more refined), toxic waste, sewage and chemicals from pesticides to fertilizers are flooding the water table and into the private wells – those wells are becoming increasingly toxic…

Adding insult to repeated injury, yesterday was a day of rain and snow for the Front Range  -  Rainwater running off those huge fire scars, into the streams and out of the canyons, into rivers and over the plains.

In Colorado, we are in the Fall – The yellow time of year… as Aspens range in the full spectrum of orangey yellow to yellow yellow to light yellow…against the blackened mountains majesty across the flooded plains.

 

 County Line Road, north of Erie (Courtesy of Cliff Willmeng) via the Boulder Daily Camera, "Boulder County activists concerned about flooded oil, gas wells"

County Line Road, north of Erie (Courtesy of Cliff Willmeng) via the Boulder Daily Camera, “Boulder County activists concerned about flooded oil, gas wells”

County Line Road, north of Erie (Courtesy of Cliff Willmeng)

County Line Road, north of Erie (Courtesy of Cliff Willmeng)

Oil on the Water

Oil on the Water

The oil “spill” (such a sweet little word implying a tiny little amount of liquid over the sides of a container) and fracking fluid (both leaching and spillage), that was ignored throughout the first week of the flood – even as activists went from local to state to national authorities then news media with photos and film – suffers from under exposure.  Activists and concerned citizens getting a run around , denials and calls for investigation only after the flood waters recede.

Stories in the New York Times, CNN MoneyChristian Science Monitor, NPR, Huffington Post, The Guardian (the UK ), Al Jazeera,  even oilprice.com (the pro-drill-baby-drill and frack-til-ya-drop site)  report on the threat of the crude oil spill and toxic fracking fluids (from lead to formaldehyde, Ethylene Glycol -aka antifreeze- to benzene, and more fun, tasty additives-the combinations are all proprietary, of course)  beat out the local TV media affiliates in their coverage unless, of course, one counts the “reporting” through proxy interviews of Tisha Schuller, the CEO and President of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, without any questions, confrontation or opposing view allowed.

A crude oil storage tank lies on its side in floodwaters along the South Platte River, in Weld County, Colo., on Sept. 17. Hundreds of natural gas and oil wells along with pipelines are shut down by flooding, as state and federal inspectors gauge the damage and look for potential contamination from inundated oil fields

A crude oil storage tank lies on its side in floodwaters along the South Platte River, in Weld County, Colo., on Sept. 17. Hundreds of natural gas and oil wells along with pipelines are shut down by flooding, as state and federal inspectors gauge the damage and look for potential contamination from inundated oil fields

The Denver Post did a bit better, running their first story days after  The Boulder Daily Camera finally listened to activists.

 The local CBS, ABC and NBC affiliates jumped in with nearly identical reporting but then running off to the Gas and Oil Association to get the “scoop”.  Since then, the occasional crawl at the bottom of the screen quietly announcing another spill found, then another, then another…

The Denver Post, “phoning it in” on some stories and,  on others,  actually getting a local involved.  On the 23rd, the Associated Press reports:

DENVER—More spills are emerging from a Colorado oil patch ravaged by flooding as soggy conditions continue to hamper attempts to inspect the damage.

Three new spills were reported Tuesday: 5,100 gallons of oil from a Noble Energy facility east of Kersey, 2,500 gallons from a PDC Energy location east of Greeley and an unknown volume from a Mineral Resources operation west of LaSalle.

State officials are now tracking 11 “notable” releases from the Wattenberg oil patch along the South Platte River in Weld County.

The amount of crude spilled totals at least 34,524 gallons, or about 822 barrels. The volumes of two releases are still unknown.

Industry representatives have said 1,900 oil and gas wells were shut down across northern Colorado because of flooding. About 600 wells have since re-opened.

On the September 23rd, Mark Jaffe, The Denver Post’s Energy writer finally steps in 11 spills counted to date (and we are not done yet).

 

More than 17,000 acres were swamped in the  floods that swept through the Denver-Julesburg Basin — one of the most intensively drilled fields in the U.S. — leaving oils  dotting the area.

In the basin, there are 20,500 active wells in Weld County, 321 in Boulder County, 253 in Larimer County.

The Colorado  and  Conservation Commission has listed 11  spills and its aerial survey has found two dozen tanks overturned. By Saturday state inspectors had assessed 35 percent of the affected area and the Commission is still compiling data on  impacts,.

As of Sept. 23 the commission said it is tracking eight “notable releases” and 10 additional locations with small releases. The commission has tallied 33 sites with damaged tanks or equipment, but no indication of leaks.

The commission calculates it has documented oil spills totaling about 27,000 gallon and of the 1,900 wells that were shut-in during the peak of the flooding, 600 are back in operation.

Here is a company by company breakdown based on company and state data:

Noble  is the largest operator in the basin with about 8,000 operating wells.

On Sept. 17, Noble reported two wells releasing natural gas that were then shut-in. A third well was also identified as leaking natural gas.

On Sept. 20, Noble reported reported two release of production fluid.

There was a release of produced condensate – a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons and water — into the South Platte River from a steel tank found lying on its side in a production facility.

There was also a release of about 54 barrels of oil and 20 barrels of produced water from a steel tank near the Big Thompson River in Weld County. Using absorbent pads and a vacuum truck, the company said it was able to contain the spill.

There was a 36 barrel release at a location between Evans and LaSalle reported to the oil and gas commission over the weekend.

Andarko Petrolem Corp. is the second largest operator in the basin with about 6,000 wells and it has reported a total of seven oil spills from damaged tank batteries. It has closed 250 tank facilities — about 10 percent of its total in the basin.

The company estimates total a release of light oil from the spills of about 500 barrels or 21,000 gallons.

On Sept. 18 Anadarko reported two large spills -– 165 barrels or 6,930 gallons — on the South Platte near Milliken and 323 barrels or 13,566 gallons on the St. Vrain River in Plattville. At the South Platte site, the company said it was able to capture about 40 barrels of product.

There were additional releases of 56 barrels of oil spills at another Anadarko site, on the South Platte River near Evans and 26 barrels for a facility near Johnstown, according to the oil and gas commission.

PDC Energy, the third largest operator in the basin with about 2,400 wells, reported that all the production equipment washed away from on of its sites.

Bayswater Exploration and Production LLC, the ninth largest operator with about 156 wells, had a 21-barrel release also on the Platte River near Evans.

But nothing about Fracking – Colorado’s Front Range is heavily Fu…I mean Fracked.

 

Fracking Colorado

Fracking Colorado

 

Northern section of the Front Range - Ground Zero for the heaviest flooding - each green and blue dot represents a well site - actively fracked or planning stages as of 2011

Northern section of the Front Range – Ground Zero for the heaviest flooding – each green and blue dot represents a well site – actively fracked or planning stages as of 2011

 

 

And the response and concern by oil and gas industry executives – and even the media- concerning fracking, has been abysmal:

Cliff Willmeng, an anti-fracking activist and spokesman for East Boulder County United:

“hundreds, if not thousands, of wells underwater right now and we have no idea what those wells are leaking. It’s very clear they are leaking into the floodwaters, though.

Dan Kelly, a vice president of Noble Energy, responded with the typical “look over there” smoke and mirrors:

“there was a tremendous amount of I think earth moved in some cases to where the foundations to some of these tanks actually washed out underneath them…..”

“due to the water, due to the currents, due to some of the other issues with potential pollutants — bacteria and some of the things we’re very concerned with — we have not aggressively pursued trying to get into some that still have risk.”

And the Oil and Gas Association   – more denial and denial:

The oil and gas industry has assured that the floods should not affect the fracking sites in any way. Tisha Schuller, the CEO and President of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said that “none of the fracking sites have been left open during the flood and we don’t have any major issues going on. There were no fracking sites affected by the flood.” (my bold)

 

Flooded Fracking site

Flooded Fracking site on the Front Range

 

The reality is that it is time to worry about it all.

Taken at Patte River East of CR 19 North of Hwy 66"

Taken at Patte River East of CR 19 North of Hwy 66″

 

As I have reported before, basic awareness of gravity tells us that what flows from high elevations, runs downhill and downhill from here is the entire bread basket of America as well as “The Rez” (The Navajo Nation), already flooded and in trouble.

And  what is flowing into that breadbasket – the place that grows fruit and vegetables that feed the people locally AND the wheat that feeds, not just this nation, but many nations – is toxic water.

Toxic from the fires that burned through homes filled with appliances, computers, TVs, stereos, cars filled with antifreeze, oil, and lubricants, building materials treated with formaldehyde, and other flame retardants, paints and varnishes, plastics of all kinds;  fire suppressing chemicals dumped from helicopters and tankers to tame the fire storms that raged in 2012 and 2013, the dead animals and rotting carcasses, the wood and plants charred and broken.

Now add the rains washing animal feces and newly drowned creatures, broken logs and washed out beaver dams, fish and snakes, bugs and salamanders, coyotes, bear cubs and any creature that could not get free, asphaltic concrete and  oil and rock and mud and clay from roads and trail and camp sites…gathering everything in its path and growing in strength and depth.

Now washing through and fracking fields, drill sites and oil from shale, pumps and pipelines, through tarns and lakes and ponds; over ridges in newly created caustic beauty of waterfalls in orange, black, red and green,…falling into once pristine lands and racing further and faster down hill, rolling along every crevice and stream to riverlets overflowing banks, moving to civilization like a freight train on a collision course with no brakeman at the bar.

Now racing faster and deeper – pulling in fireproofing, asbestos,  and rebar;  concrete from bridges, rust and corrosion from metals aged and falling from the ones still standing – out buildings from ranches and homesteads, mining camps (with their old mercury and tailings), more homes with rotting foods, clothing, plastics and household chemicals; septic tanks and leach-fields now flowing too into the towns and villages along the way as it now picks up the road trash, the dumpsters, the trash “thrown away”…

More homes and now buildings – schools, stores, restaurants, gas stations and the cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, jet skis and boats…Running into  feed lots and hog barns – garbage dumps and sewage treatment plants… racing downhill into the rivers and out to the plains.

17,000 acres flooded and soaking everything it touches, carrying what is not buried to hold and spreading across that 1000 year flood plain to reach all major waterways  - toxic waste in the form of liquid and fetid gases coming to a town near you – whether it is in your drinking water or food or air, it is moving south and east from here.

Now, we are confronted with a clean up of that toxic crap that has laid so much to waste.  That clean up, barely started, is being threatened.

Over 18000 homes destroyed but that does not include businesses destroyed, whole towns washed away.  Thousands of people in shelters and renting apartments if they can be found.  Since the crash (and Colorado led in that wave of toxicity as well …1st in the nation in foreclosures before the rest of the states caught up), rental vacancy has been an unhealthy 1-4% instead of a competitive 8%, assuring there are few places to be found even if one has the 1st and last,  security, key and pet deposits, and credit history that allows a move-in.

We have money promised to Colorado but it isn’t here yet – FEMA, CDC, EPA and other organizations will need to assess damage, habitability of flooded areas and plan for mitigation – inspectors and adjusters need time to assess loss ;  the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard, and a plethora of government agencies from A – Z are needed to assist us here – services from water to gas to sewer to electricity to telephone all need to be rebuilt – roads and dams, businesses and government offices …

And more importantly, to clean up the toxic waste that is rolling downhill

BUT,  in Washington, DC, we have petulant brats, full of pompous demagoguery, preening before cameras… surrounded by their googly-eyed brain dead groupies urging their diatribes of self absorbed hubris and calling for a shut down of the government…As the  toxic liquid waste and water continues to rush towards a town near you.

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  • mrsgunka

    Live just south of the damage, but we get our water from a well. That is an old map, as we have several fracking wells creeping into our area too. In ’65 flood, this area was hit badly from the headwaters of the Platte River when Plum Creek was flooded sending a 20 foot wall of water into Denver knocking out every bridge but two and the push from that flood moved my daughters neighbors house from the front of the lot about 50 feet to the back 40 miles from the Platte River. A baby died when they were transferring from her mother’s arms to a helicopter and washed away in the rushing water! Every hour the helicopters were going over our area, a half a mile from the river looking for rattle snakes and snapping turtles. It had just gone through the horse race track and there was horseshit floating 10 feet high in a bowling alley and the horses heads were just above the water. It smelled bad all summer….this was June 25th, 1963. Luckily they built Chatfield dam to stop another flood and there were no oil wells! This will take years to just rebuild the infra structure but have no idea if they will ever decontaminate ground water, soil or drinking water. Haven’t heard drill baby drill out of the Tundra Tart about this flood!

    • Cosmic_Surfer

      Thanks for the update. I couldn’t locate anything newer than 2011 for fracking wells across the front range. Anything else is not plotted on a large map on the net. If you know of one, please let me know a link and I will update.

      As far as your water table…keep it tested, please.

      • mrsgunka

        Hubs watched them build it…worked at Lockheed Martin for over 30 years. They had to loose some buildings at the entrance as it was in the flood plain from the dam..but moved them north of the facility in the hills. Need to call for testing soon and keep doing it!

  • Cosmic_Surfer

    In this nation, I would tend to agree. We still have 2/3 of congress refusing to accept the fact of global climate change and nearly every one in government beholden to the oil and gas industry.

    If we were ever to stand with the planet, we could actually effect change and stop the stupidity…We have the numbers and the money.

    That $Trillion spent on the war machine every year could do a lot of good finding renewable energy sources and upgrading the systems to use renewables as well as bring other nations out if the dark working to clean the planet. Unfortunately, that machinery supply both sides of every conflict to capitalize on death for a tidy profit to the war profiteers who, are part of the same industry as the oil and gas (I give you Halliburton)

    From Amy Goodman’s interview with Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace :

    KUMI NAIDOO: The U.S. needs to recognize, firstly, that they are compromising their economic future because the U.S. needs to forget about the arms race, space race, and so on. The only race that is going to matter in terms of which countries and companies will be competitive in the future is those countries and companies that get as far ahead of the green race as possible. The U.S. needs to take leadership. The world is hungry for U.S. leadership in climate negotiations and —

    AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting, President Obama, in his speech, was making the case for how the U.S. is exceptional.

    KUMI NAIDOO: Yes, and the thing about it is, that case, the way it gets read, speaking beyond climate change now, is an approach by the U.S. of do as we tell you to do, don’t do as we say — sorry, do as we say, not as we do. Because, the U.S., if you take on torture, they are signatories to the anti-torture conventions, but we’ve got waterboarding, we’ve got Guantanamo, we’ve got extraordinary rendition. On respecting human rights and not violating peoples privacy without their knowledge — people around the world are saying things like, we had so much optimism in Obama. President Obama was saying, yes we can, yes we can, but with all of this NSA spying, maybe he was saying, yes we scan, yes we scan, yes we scan.

  • Sally

    Pennsylvania will be next. And if we don’t stop this insane fracking, we will not have to worry about tainted crops because we will have no clean water and will all die. One wonders if the GOP is planning the End Times, and just doesn’t give a flying fig about anyone or anything.

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