St. Vrain River - Weld, Colorado

Colorado flood raises fears of fracking chemical spill – new photos

St. Vrain River - Weld, Colorado
St. Vrain River – Weld, Colorado (all photos courtesy of East Boulder County United)

A Colorado citizens’ group is raising alarm bells about the possible release of toxic chemicals into local rivers from flood-stricken fracking operations. At least one broken pipeline has been confirmed by local authorities.

The group, East Boulder County United – which aims to keep the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing out of its communities – has been posting photos of natural gas infrastructure and chemical storage tanks inundated by recent floods to its facebook page. See this staggering collection of photos here, continued at bottom of story.

Weld County, Colorado
Weld County, Colorado

The group began sharing these images in an effort to wake the public and media up to this untold chapter of Colorado’s widely-covered flood story. Says East Boulder County United spokesperson Cliff Willmeng:

[quote]Our concern is that all of these sites contain various amounts of hazardous industrial wastes that are now capable of spilling into the waterways and onto the agricultural land. Many of these chemicals are carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and known disruptors of the human endocrine system. As of today there is no testing taking place, industrial, independent or otherwise to determine the extent of the contamination, nor any talk of it. And one can guarantee that this week the COGCC will be issuing more drilling permits even as the hydrocarbons flow into the rivers. [/quote]

According to one of the few local media stories to report on the oil and gas dimension of the flood, from The Denver Post yesterday, at least

one pipeline leak has been confirmed by Weld County Emergency Manager Roy Rudisill. “Other industry pipelines are sagging as saturated sediment erodes around the expanding river,” the Post reports.

Industry crews “are shutting in the lines, shutting in the wells,” Rudisill told the paper.

Encana - Boulder County
A flooded Encana operation in Boulder County

The photos were taken on Friday and Saturday afternoon throughout several northern Colorado farming communities at the centre of the state’s “500 year flood” – in neighbouring Boulder and Weld counties.

According to The Denver Post:

[quote]Oil drums, tanks and other industrial debris mixed into the swollen river flowing northeast. County officials did not give locations of where the pipeline broke and where other pipelines were compromised. [/quote]

Willmeng partly blames a lack of regulatory oversight for the situation he and his fellow landowners find themselves in. “There are over 20,000 oil and gas wells in Weld County alone,” Willmeng told The Common Sense Canadian via email. “By comparison there are only 17 inspectors for the entire state of Colorado.

“Prior to the floods we knew that the oil and gas industry was left to police itself. Now the rivers, agricultural zones and residences get to bear that decision.”


Colorado has been one of a number of states hit by the recent boom in fracking operations – including Pennsylvania, New York State, Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Dakota and Louisiana.

Willmeng’s group is also concerned the oil and gas companies whose operations are flooded will downplay the risk of contamination:

[quote]The industry is going to claim that it remotely shut in all of the relevant wells. Unfortunately not all the hydrocarbons are protected within the well bore. There are exposed pipes, VOC burners and infrastructure related to the storage of oil, gas and

toxic industrial waste that all sit above the ground. The flood waters have hit all of these structures where they sit. [/quote]

The Common Sense Canadian has covered the issue of water contamination from fracking for some time. Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.

All Photos courtesy of East Boulder County United
County Line Road-net. Boulder & Weld
County Line Road, on border of Weld and Boulder counties
Weld County, Colorado
Weld County, Colorado
St. Vrain River - Weld County
St. Vrain River – Weld County
Weld County, Colorado
Weld County, Colorado
Weld County, Colorado
Weld County, Colorado

About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

43 thoughts on “Colorado flood raises fears of fracking chemical spill – new photos

  1. I support Damien in this and thanks for bringing it up.

    If everyone knew the extent of fracking in northern BC, you would be concerned. Our most valued resource, our water, is being wasted for the profits for large corporations.

    But our biggest concern should be Fukushima once they start removing the fuel rods from Number 4 reactor. We will not have to worry about any of this if this goes one little bit wrong. How do we get Japan to bring in the world community and how do we get the world community to support Japan financially? I want to know more, hear more, and do more.

  2. An excellent example of the concept “Moral Hazard ” where we all pay for the Risk and a few reap the benefits !!

  3. Keith..

    I read your post above

    “Good Gawd!
    Shut-up already.

    This war against fracking is getting old.
    There is NOTHING but manipulated and manufactured evidence to back up any damn claim you all make.

    Honestly, you all are wearing very thin.”

    I suggest if you find this to be wearing thin you might not encourage debate.
    This is an open forum so please by all means express away, however please do not fire off with a comment like you just did as it is an open forum.

    Why you would pay any attention at all to things that you find are wearing thin is beyond me ??

    I however appreciate a different perspective and as such listen to both side of the coin without telling one how tired I am of hearing from them, when I have made my decision I will chime in or move on.

  4. Wow! The oil industry “boosters” are out in full force on this comment section today.
    One wonders if they’re employed by either Encana or the Federal conservatives.
    Either way, 20 years from now , when Millions of people are drinking bottled water because all the chemical toxins that have been pumped into the ground have perculated back up and now have contaminated thousands of wells, water supplies, lakes……
    THEN we get to say…..I told ya so.
    But that wont get us our clean water back.
    And all these self serving pricks get to “wash their hands” of the problem and collect their dividend cheques.

    Well done , Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

  5. Just look at our history where our earth and water has had to bear the burden of our business operations and where governments and regulations and enforcement is subject to insidious influence from big corporations and the wealthy for the all mighty dollar. Yes we benefit temporarily in our lifestyles but anyone can see what our effects are on our planet. So yes I am very worried about the proposed pipelines in B. C and even if they are built stronger we will see mighty grief down the road or down the pipeline. So let us see more reporting and we the people need to boss our politicians so give them instruction and advise, criticize and compliment them on everything around us as we are the bosses and owners of our world. So we need as much accurate information so we can make good decisions. So get educated and then act to save our world. Cheers folks and courage as it is not to late to save the world.

  6. Enlightening info Damien Gillis! Good picture visuals, please keep us posted.

    Bringing this into the light is very big work and I’m thrilled to see that you have the skill set to do the job.

    Great follow-up links too.

    Keep us informed, you have an audience, we’ll repost often to help spread the awareness.

    Thanks for the research and write up, very much appreciate it!

  7. I couldn’t help but notice this article failed to be concerned with any other sources of contamination . Such as all the pesticides and herbicides and farm gas etc. stored on farm land.The storage tanks used by farmers aren’t nearly as strong and far more likely to fail then tanks shown here.Then there all your local businesses that have toxic chemicals on site. Also medical wastes, chlorine from the local pool etc etc ect. No mention of any of these things. You must have a computer and I am betting a cell phone and you probably don’t live in a tent by candlelight so you are a consumer of energy just like everyone else. Seems like you are most concerned wirt furthering your own personal agenda and using a disaster to do. Maybe leaving the comfort of your home and going to volunteer to help the locals affected would be a more proactive way to show your concern.

    1. To your first point, Lara, this article was indeed focused specifically on one, underreported form of contamination. You are quite right to be concerned about these other issues – and thank you for raising them here.

      To your second point, I make every effort to live sustainably but, admittedly, could always do more to reduce my footprint. That’s why my colleagues at this publication and I push for green economic solutions and public policy that promotes renewable energy, public transit, local, value-added manufacturing, local, organic food production, ecological conservation and smart, sustainable economic development.

      Without those supports – as opposed to subsidizing unhealthy fossil fuels – there are limits to what individuals, families and businesses can do to reduce their footprint.

      You can’t seriously suggest the fact that I live in the modern world and use fossil fuels to some extent somehow precludes me from being concerned about contamination from fracking. Like out of fear of hypocrisy – as you define it, on your terms – I should refrain from sharing information with the public and advocating for sustainable economic alternatives?!

      On that point we’ll have to agree to disagree.

      1. Unless you can point to a bunch of articles reporting on other pollution issues resulting from the flood, it’s safe to say this article shows severe editorial bias.

        Whenever there is a flood there is heavy contanimation from a variety of sources. What if it was a solar panel plant or a lithium battery plant being flooded and leaking carcinogens? I wonder whether that would get such a long and scathing article.

        1. And judging from her spelling and grammatical mistakes …..An Honors graduate from some Ivy league University no doubt.

    2. Lara,
      You make some very good points & I agree!!
      Thank you for pointing out all that needs to be addressed and I am adding on another issue…RAW SEWAGE!!

      Come on people… we all are consumers of energy…so we all are responsible for what we do to our planet.
      Why do US citizens want to depend on other countries for oil, goods ect. ?Did you not see what happened when all our jobs went to other country`s ?? We have homeless, hungry people,children, & Vets.
      Every single thing we do harms our Mother Earth. You may not like fracking, but it created(still does) jobs that are badly needed by Americans!!
      Again we all are consumers of gas,energy & so on,it does harm all over the world, the blame is NOT ALL on the US!!
      I prefer to keep our jobs in the good old USA!! The US needs to become more independent. Do you all want to just to keep giving billions to the MIDDLE EAST for gas??
      Natural disasters happen everywhere with the same consequences.

      We need to help those in need, send prayers for them all, including the missing, & I am sure the Red Cross can use donations of any type!!

      Also…I DO NOT work for any Oil/Fracking company,or the government.

      FYI…I also have 1 young women, my oldest daughter with a Economic/Environmental Science Degree,and my oldest son is now in college working on his Environmental Law Degree.

      Support the USA!!

      1. I really can’t believe I’m commenting on this, because I never do get involved in these forums. However, I do have 1 question for everybody here…….Can you live without WATER? We can live without oil and gas and electricity. We have for 1000’s of years. Not saying it will be fun, but it can and has been done. The one thing I can guarantee you is that if we don’t have water, we will die, and we are running out. Most don’t believe this, but when you look at the world population and the strain it is putting on the water supply of the world, it becomes evident that it’s not a matter of “IF” but “When”. I don’t know that there is anything we can do to save us from our own demise, but if we don’t even try all of the excuses in the world won’t save us. The day will come, when WATER is the most valuable commodity on the planet. We’re in trouble and nobody even realizes it and by the time we do….it will be too late.

      2. Ummmm, Rose?
        I dont think the arguement is against the U.S. Or energy consumption.Canada is just as guilty as anyone.
        Encana makes me soooooo proud to be Canadian everytime they cause another oil spill.
        But I digress.

        The arguement

        Its about how the natural gas is forced out of the ground with massive amounts of water and “lubricants” to “help” with the fracturing of the rock and the flow of the gas once the rock is pulverized.
        Several European countries have banned Fracking after small earthquakes were directly attributed to the fracking process.

        Mmmmmm, lubricants in my drinking water………yummy.
        “lubricants” that will eventually seep into the drinking water supply.
        “lubricants with known toxic and long term cancerous effects to humans

        Cheap energy at any cost……….Where do I sign up?

  8. Great work, Damian. These environment tragedies connected with fracking and busted oil pipes due to weather changes is something the BC government needs to think about when Christy Clark is talking so confidentially about the “clean energy” of frackng and more pipe lines in BC. These increased sudden violent down pours of rain have already happened in Canada and will happen again. Thanks for this. BettyK

  9. what seems to be the problem in any of the pictures that you posted? The tanks, aside from the one slightly tilted, look ok and are doing their job of holding the evil oil. most have their containment fence still in place which means they are most likely not even touching flood water. what is your concern about a well that is covered by flood water? you do know that they are completely sealed right? if they were not they would not be operable.
    sure there will be some minor contamination from drilling operations here and there, but there will be just as much if not more from other businesses, farms, and government operations. oil and gas is just too easy of a target for attention seeking “journalists”.

    1. Zoltan,

      We have confirmation from The Denver Post and a county official of one pipeline rupture and at least one additional leak. We have “oil drums, tanks and other industrial debris mixed into the swollen river flowing northeast.”

      Clearly, these pictures don’t capture the full extent of the issue, which was reported on throughout the story.

      You casually acknowledge “minor contamination from drilling operations here and there” – but I’m sure to local residents being evacuated from their homes and whose farms and homes will bear the impacts of this contamination, it is no minor thing.

      Moreover, the containment fences for a number of the tanks shown above have been breached.

      As to what effect this and fast-moving flood waters will have on these tanks, we don’t know at this point. We certainly won’t find out if proper testing isn’t done and the mainstream media doesn’t investigate the story.

      The Precautionary Principle alone argues that these risks be taken seriously by authorities and companies.

      Finally, there is the comment of Weld County Emergency Manager Roy Rudisill: “Other industry pipelines are sagging as saturated sediment erodes around the expanding river.” What further risks are posed by this catastrophic flooding – particularly continued erosion around oil and gas infrastructure?

      The answer is you don’t know.

  10. Wow tanks sitting in water. If only there were something to contain the oil and freaking fluid. ……. like a tank. Makes me sick to see such opportunistic pandering during a tragedy.

    Unless of course he’s on to something. I mean think about all the contamination that happens when hurricanes but the golf States and all those refineries. ……… oh wait there wasn’t any.

    1. Yeah, Clem, I’m sure that’s how the engineers intended them to be operated – drifting down a flooding river!

      We have confirmation of one pipeline rupture and at least one additional leak from the Denver Poste story cited within. We have “oil drums, tanks and other industrial debris mixed into the swollen river flowing northeast.”

      Incidentally, how would you know whether there is contamination or what the impacts are if there is no testing being done?…and how would the public know if it’s not reported?

      Do you seriously think this is a non-issue?!

    2. Clem, a little research will take you a long way. Tanks leak… all the time. It happens and it’s not rare, especially when the area containing them is flooded.

      And refineries spilling oil during hurricanes… you guessed it. Here’s a link to the EPA, it took only a quick search to find it. If you do some research you’ll find plenty more.

      It’s a long-term remediation process and a tragedy any time it happens. No matter what causes it the severity should never be underestimated or scoffed at.

  11. You morons really need to worry more about your water treatment plants and organic dairy feedlots overflowing in to those rivers you are so worried about.

    Boulder County’s water treatment plant was dumping raw sewage into the St Vrain River. The Aurora Organic Dairy is flushing it’s feed pens into the St Vrain River.

    You putz’s are worried about oil contamination.

    Oh, I have to ask, how you guys doing without electricity or natural gas? Yeah, all are provided by these same oil companies you protest against.

    What will you be lighting your tent with tonight, lamp oil made from your lard butt?

    You really need to get your priorities in order.

  12. Good Gawd!
    Shut-up already.

    This war against fracking is getting old.
    There is NOTHING but manipulated and manufactured evidence to back up any damn claim you all make.

    Honestly, you all are wearing very thin.

    1. Keith, really?

      Of course, there was the EPA study that found contamination of fracking chemicals in water wells in Wyoming – a study which was co-opted by the very company responsible for the contamination, Encana:

      Then there is this large body of documents compiled by a longtime Canadian environmental consultant who worked int he industry, Jessica Ernst:

      The there’s this joint study from the US Geological Survey and Fish and Wildlife Service showing how fish were killed by a 2007 Kentucky spill of frack fluids:

      And this journal article published in Environmental Health Perspectives on methane found in well water near fracking operations:

      That’s just sampler to get you started…

      1. Yes, really.

        I am not in need of assistance to get “started”, thanks.

        I’ve been “started” for a very long time.

        There is zero “evidence” against fracking that cannot be disputed either in whole or in part.

        The anti fracking crap is part of a larger agenda.
        Fortunately, here in Colorado, more and more folks seem to be understanding that you all are playing a game of lies and deceptions.

        1. No, you are plainly not started, Keith. Or you have a specific agenda of protecting the industry through disinformation (though if they’re paying you they’re certain not getting their money’s worth 😉

          I have done my homework and provided you links to well-researched, credible scientific work drawing just such a connection between fracking and the problems it creates.

          Repeating at the top of your lungs, “There is zero evidence!” does not make it so and does not stand for a credible, intellectual argument.

          1. Been drinking too much “fracked” water in Colorado Keith?
            Yer reasoning skills require a reboot.

          2. Your homework gets a failing grade.

            Pavillion WY is a 30 year old site that allowed shallow fracking … unlike the modern boom around deep fracking.

            Sure, wildlife is damaged when frack fluid is spilled, as it is when coal slurry breaks through, as it is when windmills chop up bats and birds, etc.Luckily, frack fluid spills are rare.

            Maybe post to a link saying that MIT or Stanford or Team Obama has decided fracking cannot be done safely and economically?

  13. It’s too bad but I feel you people in that area are going to become very sick,and will be fighting for your lives, “literally”, with these Oil Companies and the Government for compensation.

Comments are closed.