DOW seeks to monitor Roan spill |

DOW seeks to monitor Roan spill

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE The Colorado Division of Wildlife is requesting permission to gain access to private lands on the Roan Plateau where four spills of industrial drilling mud occurred so agency staff can start monitoring the area.Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the DOW, said the agency was first alerted to the spills earlier this week, but since they happened on private property, the agency is trying to work with owner of the property to get access to the spill sites.The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) announced on Thursday it was investigating four large releases from oil and gas reserve pits, which occurred from November through February, and drained into Garden Gulch, which is northwest of Parachute. The spills did not occur in the BLMs Roan Plateau Planning Area.Hampton said the DOW is working with the COGCC as the investigation into the spills continue.Though these pits are mud and water, there are also a lot of chemicals that can be found in them, Hampton said.A concern for the agency is that when snows begin to melt, which could happen soon, those chemicals could melt off and run off into Parachute Creek and potentially into the Colorado River, Hampton said.That leaves aquatic species concerns for us, Hampton said. We certainly want to try to do what we can to monitor the situation, but (the spills) are on private land and at this point, with the way state regulations are, the DOW has absolutely no authority.In the announcement of the investigation, the COGCC said that one release of about 30,000 barrels of drilling mud was immediately reported to the agency, and that a second operator reported a second release immediately. However, that same operator failed to report two other releases. The volume of those releases has not yet been determined.The agency has said there was no immediate threat to wildlife or human health from the spills.The COGCC has declined to name the operators until the investigation is finished. The agency is withholding at least 80 drilling applications near Garden Gulch until the issue is resolved.Part of (the investigation) will of course include working with the companies to make sure that damage is mitigated and to the extent possible, contained, said Deb Frazier, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the COGCC.Frazier said it is far too early in the investigation to determine the number of days there were spills, the chemical composition of the spills, and whether there is any impairment to wildlife or water quality.Sportsmen for the Roan Plateau a coalition of hunters, anglers and sporting organizations in Colorado said the spilling of the drilling muds on private lands of the Roan Plateau shows the importance of protecting the areas sensitive watersheds that contain Colorado River cutthroat trout.Corey Fisher, a field coordinator for Trout Unlimited and member of the Sportsmen for the Roan Plateau, said that it was lucky that the spill didnt occur in a more sensitive drainage that contains important populations of native cutthroat trout.This just makes it all the more important to carefully approach the development of the Roan, particularly those portions that contain irreplaceable habitat for fish and wildlife, and by extension, hunters and anglers, Fisher said in a prepared statement.Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, said she wanted to stress that the COGCCs current investigation is a clear example that the existing rules and regulations are working.Our members are avid outdoorsmen this is why we live and work in Colorado, she said. We are steadfastly committed to keeping our worksites in a condition that meet and even exceed current