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.
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.
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.