Crystal River Caucus takes position on Thompson Divide drilling
On May 15, Pitkin County determined that the drilling of two new natural gas storage wells in the Thompson Divide area, proposed by Black Hills Energy, is unlikely to have any adverse impact on Pitkin residents. The county based its decision on the applicant, Black Hills’ proposed air and water quality sampling and monitoring.
The Crystal River Caucus reviewed the project and feels that the proposed monitoring protocols are insufficient to ensure protection of water quality. Pitkin residents may submit comments to the BOCC, during the 14-day comment period, from May 23 through June 5, to express concern and request reconsideration of this decision based on the project’s current limited sampling and monitoring requirements.
Black Hills’ Wolf Creek gas storage field has a history of pipeline leaks, corrosion on existing well and pipeline casings, and spills in the storage area. This history requires real-time water quality monitoring to ensure that any groundwater contamination from gas well leaks is immediately stopped. With the currently proposed, intermittent (once or twice yearly) monitoring, there would be a significant lag between the time contaminants leak and when they appear in surface springs or seeps. During this time lag, contaminants may spread throughout the surrounding aquifer and even to adjacent aquifers.
To adequately protect our groundwater resources, the Crystal River Caucus strongly recommends that Pitkin County require baseline and real-time water quality monitoring, which is currently technologically feasible (https://source.colostate.edu/testing-the-water/). These requirements should be a condition of any County determination that this project will have no significant impact. The huge, 2015 Aliso Canyon gas storage well blowout in California resulted from the failure of gas storage companies to protect wells from corrosion and to monitor them in real time. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/business/porter-ranch-gas-leak.html. Pitkin County has the opportunity to take preventive action to make sure that does not happen here.
Crystal River Caucus board
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