Parachute fears poisoned irrigation water |

Parachute fears poisoned irrigation water

Sharon Sullivan
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
A frozen waterfall on the Roan Plateau is composed of waste and leftover mud from a natural gas drilling pit that overflowed and ran into the waterway. (Pete Kolbenschlag/AP/Mountain West Strategies)

PARACHUTE, Colo. ” Spring has arrived, and the town of Parachute will turn on its irrigation water April 15.

But some area residents fear the water is unsafe to use since learning about four separate spills from two oil companies’ storage pits. The spills occurred from November to February.

More than a million gallons of wastewater has poured into an area known as “Garden Gulch” north of Parachute, according to Western Colorado Congress.

The spill has been frozen in a huge waterfall that is now starting to melt as the temperatures rise. The fluids are flowing directly into West Parachute Creek ” a source of irrigation water for many landowners and the entire town of Parachute.

Livestock are currently drinking from the creek, said Liz Chandler, a large animal veterinarian from nearby New Castle.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is investigating the spills, but landowners say little information has been shared with them regarding the spills.

Deb Frazier, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, recently told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that the agency is working to determine the volume of the spills and their chemical composition.

Sid Lindauer, a rancher who lives near Parachute Creek, is worried.

“So far the state has not told us what is in the wastewater and what threat it could pose to my livestock,” he said.

Chandler said she’s frustrated that the industry is not required to disclose the chemicals it uses in the drilling processes.

Until the company discloses what’s in the fluids, agencies don’t know what to test for, Chandler said.

Environmental groups have long pushed for full disclosure of the chemicals used in the industry’s operations.

“Oil and gas companies are really fighting that, arguing it’s proprietary information,” Chandler said.

Chandler said giving out the ingredient list is not the same as giving out the recipe.

“It’s about public safety,” Chandler said.

“The companies need to tell the (oil and gas commission) what the chemicals are. The commission needs to test West Parachute Creek for the presence of those chemicals and tell the downstream users if it’s safe or not,” Chandler said.

Eventually West Parachute Creek ends up in the Colorado River.


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