Parachute man frustrated by perceived inaction of gas commission |

Parachute man frustrated by perceived inaction of gas commission

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE, Colo. – A western Colorado guide and outfitter, who believes that chemicals from area gas drilling activities has ruined his livelihood, says he is mystified by the amount of time it is taking for the state’s industry watchdogs to investigate his claims.

Ned Prather, now 61, was hospitalized for throat injuries in May 2008 after drinking water from one of two springs that surface on a mountainside above Parachute Creek and gather in a pool on Prather’s property.

Testing of the spring that feeds Prather’s cabin revealed benzene, ethylbenzene, trimethylbenzene, xylene and toluene, said attorney Richard Djokic, who represents Prather. He said testing of the second spring to the west found the same “chemical cocktail,” minus the toluene.

Although he has largely recovered from the throat injuries, Prather said on Tuesday, he continues to deal with the ramifications of the incident.

“I finally got a water supply, but we still have two springs contaminated,” he said, explaining that the gas companies being investigated by the state over the matter finally installed a water tank on his land.

“I started begging for it about two months ago,” he said, “and I got it a week ago.”

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Four companies are being investigated over the matter – Nonsuch Natural Gas, Marathon Oil Co., Williams Production RMT and Petroleum Development Corp. – and Prather believes they have acted as a group for such things as the water tank and monetary compensation for lost hunting revenues.

In general, Prather said, the contamination of the springs has been nothing but trouble.

“It’s got our business shut down,” he said of the guiding and outfitting company his family has been running for the past 40 years or so. “I can’t take hunters up there around the contamination. There’s too much liability for me.”

He was expecting to hear from the COGCC in early May about the results of an investigation into his complaint, but still has heard nothing.

“We’re pretty disappointed,” said Prather, referring to himself and his brother, Dick. “It’s awful slow. They’re not making much progress.”

Dave Neslin, director of the COGCC, said in mid-May that the commission was investigating, and that the case “raises potentially complex issues about determining causation and fault, and those can take some time to sort out.”

Neslin said on Tuesday that the investigation still is continuing, and that he could give no estimate as to when it might be concluded.

“I can certainly empathize with Mr. Prather, and how he may feel frustrated,” Neslin said. “It’s certainly not that we’ve forgotten about this, or are ignoring it. But we have to be responsible about how we proceed.”