Water tests indicate no Parachute Creek contamination | AspenTimes.com

Water tests indicate no Parachute Creek contamination

John Colson
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE, Colo. – A state official said on Wednesday that test results received that day indicated no pollution in Parachute Creek from a large leak near a Williams Midstream natural gas processing plant.

The samples, taken March 23 or 24 by Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) employees from the creek itself, were sent to a lab for analysis.

Work crews continue to excavate and inspect 120-feet of 30-inch pipeline, along with other equipment, in search of the source of a hydrocarbon leak about four miles up Parachute Creek from here, a spokesman for Williams Midstream said on Wednesday.

Williams Midstream, a natural-gas pipeline and tanks company, is in charge of finding the leak, which since March 8 is believed to have soaked the ground with 143 barrels (or more than 6,000 gallons) of unidentified hydrocarbon compounds and at least 3,600 barrels (or more than 153,600 gallons) of contaminated water.

The site of the hydrocarbon plume, which is said to measure 200 feet X 70 feet around and 14 feet deep, is criss-crossed by underground pipelines and tanks that belong to Williams and WPX Energy, which is a natural gas drilling company.

Both firms are offshoots of Williams Production RMT, which split in two last year.

The plume was discovered on March 8 by Williams crews preparing the ground for an expansion of the plant, working in a 40-foot right of way crossing land owned by WPX.

Since the plume was reported, Williams has been vacuuming liquid hydrocarbons and water from the site, and has sunk six water-quality monitor wells into the ground surrounding the plume to determine both the size of the plume and how it has affected groundwater in the area.

Williams spokeswoman Donna Gray said on Wednesday that there is no evidence that Parachute Creek itself has been contaminated by the leak.

Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), said on Wednesday that the size of the plume is not precisely known.

“We have not truly begun to determine the full footprint of the plume,” he noted, explaining that his agency and Williams have been concentrating on preventing contamination of Parachute Creek and on finding the source of the leak.

Lepore added that engineers now believe that Parachute Creek itself is at a higher elevation than the ground containing the plume.

Although the state and Williams have conceded that groundwater levels in the immediate vicinity have been contaminated, Lepore theorized that the contamination would flow away from the creek due to the difference in elevation.

But retired engineer Bob Arrington, industry critic and member of the Battlement Concerned Citizens and the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, wrote in a blog on Wednesday that Lepore’s analysis was “propaganda.”

“At any cross-section of the valley, the stream is at the low point,” Arrington maintained. “All moisture going onto surrounding ground flows toward the stream and down valley … toward the river that the stream is running to.”

Parachute Creek flows into the Colorado River.

Todd Hartman, public relations spokesman for the COGCC, said of Arrington’s comments, “We work to the very best of our abilities, expertise and experience to provide facts based on the information available to us, and are doing so in this case as in any other.”


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