Waste drilling fluids from a spill near Garden Gulch, just west of the Roan Plateau's undeveloped public lands. Over 1.2 million gallons of mud, water and chemicals were spilled.

In 2003, there w as a total of 86 spills/releases in Colorado. As of October 19, 2011, the total reported spills/releases in Colorado was 3,877.

Over 47% of the spills/releases from January 2003 to March 2008 contaminated groundwater or surface water, according to The Oil and Gas Accountability Project.

In August 2011 , Kerr-McGee spilled cancer-causing benzene at concentrations exceeding state standards by as much as 320 times. The spills contaminated groundwater and, in one case, the Boulder White Rock irrigation canal and South Boulder Creek.

What gets spilled?

Crude oil , condensate, produced water, diesel fuel, glycol, amine, lubricating oil, hydraulic fracturing fluids, drilling muds and other chemicals .

More than 2 million gallons spilled in Colorado in 2011

Spills in Colorado in 2011 are at the rate of seven every five days, releasing more than 2 million gallons of diesel, oil, drilling wastewater and chemicals that contaminated land and water.

How much is two million gallons? It's enough to fill almost 8 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

In 2011, Colorado groundwater was contaminated in 58 spills. Streams were contaminated 18 times. Berms designed to contain spills overflowed 204 times.

COGCC recently declared four companies responsible for the largest number of spills to be "Outstanding Operators" and lauded them for environmental excellence.

COGCC regulations on spills and releases

If any fluids are spilled or released, operators are required to:

- Control and contain the spill immediately upon discovery to protect the environment;

- Investigate and clean up the spill as soon as practicable;

- Take additional action as directed by the COGCC to prevent or mitigate significant adverse environmental impacts and comply with state soil and ground water standards;

- Determine the cause of the spill and, to the extent practicable, implement measures to prevent similar spills in the future;

- Notify the COGCC as soon as practicable, but not more than 24 hours after discovery, if the spill impacts or threatens to impact any state water, residence or occupied structure, livestock, or public byway;

- Notify the COGCC within 10 days if the spill exceeds 210 gallons; and

- Notify the surface owner as soon as practicable, but not more than 24 hours after discovery, if the spill is reportable to the COGCC.

T hese requirements apply to all spills and releases regardless of size or when they were discovered.

Some causes of spills:

- corrosion holes in pipelines

- leaks from storage tanks

- overflow ing pits

- equipment failure

- broken hydraulic lines

- t anker truck accidents

- vandalism

- operator error

What happens after a spill?

Generally, the area is closed off , leaks repaired and soil and groundwater samples sent for laboratory analysis. Affected soils are excavated and moved to an authorized disposal site. G roundwater is removed by a vacuum truck. Affected areas could be pressure washed and wash water recovered by a vacuum truck.

Reports are prepared and COGCC or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reviews and approves clean-up plans to ensure that they are procedurally acceptable and operationally appropriate for cleaning up the contaminants of concern.

Type: SURFACE WATER Date: 06/04/2008

Complainant: Ned Prather P.O. Box 174 DeBeque CO 81630

Description of complaint: Complainant became ill after drinking water from a spring (Div. of Water Resources Permit No. 233234) supplying drinking water to his home

COGCC Response: On 6/19/08 COGCC staff issued NOAVs to 4 operators with gas wells in proximity to the impacted Prather Ranch Spring. The alleged violations: Unauthorized discharge of E&P waste has occurred from oil and gas operations in the vicinity of Mr. Prather's spring, cabin, and pond and has impacted ground and surface water. Volatile organic compounds (VOC) were detected in water samples from Mr. Prather's spring, pond, and faucet, including benzene which exceeded the WQCC standard of 5 μg/l.

Drinking BTEX

Ned Prather was thirsty after he and his wife drove up the dusty road to their cabin. He went to the sink and filled a glass with water.

I tipped it up just like this and just started guzzling -- like an idiot. I didn't know it was bad until I drank two- thirds of the cup," said the 61-year-old outfitter. His throat burned. His head pounded. His stomach hurt. He felt like he was going to suffocate.

Frozen waterfall of mud, water and chemicals from one of four spills near Garden Gulch, just west of the Roan Plateau's undeveloped public lands.

Eighteen oil and gas wells are located within 3,000 feet of Prather's spring. COGCC concluded the contamination came from a leaking pipe, pit or tank. Prather suspects it was the 8,000 gallons of diesel spilled when a spigot was accidentally left open the winter before his spring went bad.

More leaks and spills in cold-weather

F rozen valves and other problems related to cold temperatures resulted in at least a half-dozen early-winter leaks and spills in 2010 involving Garfield County oil and gas operations.

Michael Freeman of the legal organization Earthjustice said the increasing number of spills on the Roan Plateau help illustrate that if drilling occurs on the newly leased areas on public land on the plateau, spills will follow, threatening rare plants and fish, including genetically pure Colorado River cutthroat trout.

" The questio n' s not if, but when, and how many ," Freeman said.


Total number of oil and gas spills and notices of alleged violations (per county) filed with the State of Colorado - Maybe?

Colorado Oil and Gas Industry Spills: A review of COGCC data (January 2003 – March 2008) CO_Spills_Release2007(4-23-08).pdf

Drilling spills rise in Colorado, but fines rare

Potential Exposure-Related Human Health Effects of Oil and Gas Development: A White Paper Colorado School of Public Health --September 15, 2008 GarfieldCOHealthStudy.pdf

Four oil and gas companies responsible for 350 spills named "outstanding operators" by regulators

COGCC - Oil & Gas Industry Spills and Releases

Fears of tainted water well up in western Colorado

Cold-weather spills may help case against drilling on Roan leases


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