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.
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 Money, Christian 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.
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 Colorado floods that swept through the Denver-Julesburg Basin — one of the most intensively drilled fields in the U.S. — leaving oils spills 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 Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has listed 11 oil 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 flood 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 Energy 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.
And the response and concern by oil and gas industry executives – and even the media- concerning fracking, has been abysmal:
“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)
The reality is that it is time to worry about it all.
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.