Activists fight Battlement Mesa injection wells
Community activists are fighting an application for construction of wastewater injection wells within the Battlement Mesa residential boundaries.
Western Colorado Congress, Battlement Concerned Citizens and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance said Friday that the injection wells, which would be associated with natural gas fracking approved in the neighborhood, would put residents’ drinking water at risk.
Battlement Mesa Partners, a contractor for Ursa Resources, has applied to Garfield County for clearance for the wells. Battlement Mesa, adjacent to Parachute, is home to about 5,000 people in unincorporated Garfield County.
“If this amendment is approved it will allow Ursa to store and inject toxic wastewater right next to our drinking water supply,” Dave Devanney of Battlement Concerned Citizens said in a statement. “Why would Battlement Mesa Partners willfully put residents at risk and violate the covenants that protect us?”
The proposed amendment would allow for the construction of injection wells within the community under a new zone with a special-use permit. The zone would be called the “public service, recreation and injection well” zone and would set aside 37 acres along the north end of the community by the Colorado River. Since Ursa owns mineral rights beneath Battlement Mesa, the company won approval last year from state regulators to develop 53 natural gas wells within the boundaries of Battlement Mesa.
“The only thing in proposed injection well is water that is already in the earth, trace amounts of soap and scale inhibitor,” Don Simpson, Ursa vice president of business development, told the Glenwood springs Post Independent. “No chemicals.”
He called criticism of the injection well plan is unwarranted and “much ado about nothing.”
The application is scheduled to go before the Garfield County Planning and Zoning Commission on Feb. 8.
If it is approved, Ursa’s contractor would still have to win approval from the county commission and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to construct the wells.
“It’s a very safe process and we will operate to the best of our ability if we get approved,” Simpson said.
Community groups have not been the only parties to criticize the proposal. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wrote a letter last February recommending that the injection well bid be denied. At that time, Ursa had included an injection well in its development plan, but that was not included in the drilling special-use permit approved by Garfield County.
“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 letter said. “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,” the letter said.
Simpson said the company has made changes to the proposed well since the letter was written. He said he thought if the department reviewed the plan now, it may reach a different conclusion.
Leslie Robinson, chair of Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, isn’t buying it.
“Injection wells do not belong in residential areas, especially not right next to a community’s drinking water supply,” she said. “Recent studies show that injection wells can pollute surface water, so why would we risk putting this so close to the intake?
“Our number one priority is to protect people’s drinking water. As such, we volunteer to work with Battlement Mesa Partners, Ursa, the Battlement Mesa Metro District, Garfield County and any other stakeholders to find a different location that would pose less of a threat to the drinking water and residential homes.”