Flooded Fracking Sites In Colorado Raise Contamination Concerns

Chemical-laced fracking fluid and wastewater tanks have reportedly broken free at several submerged fracking sites.
By @TrishaMarczakMP |
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    A fracking wastewater well in high water caused from flooding in East Boulder, Colorado.  (Photo/East Boulder County United via Facebook)

    A fracking wastewater well in high water from flooding in East Boulder, Colorado Sept. 14, 2013. (Photo/East Boulder County United via Facebook)

    Colorado residents hit hard by flooding are calling attention to flooded fracking wells, raising contamination concerns from chemically laced fracking fluid as fracking wastewater tanks drift through flooded portions of the state.

    East Boulder County United, a resident-based anti-fracking group, is at the forefront of the concern. As the area experiences a flooding disaster and with more than 1,000 people unaccounted for, questions over the area’s fracking wells are growing.

    The group’s Facebook page illustrates what residents are experiencing on the ground — fracking well sites and wastewater storage facilities are under water, inciting panic over the possible leak of chemicals into flooded waterways. Images show tanks floating through flooded areas.

    A post issued on East Boulder County United’s site Monday morning indicated the group was working with the Environmental Protection Agency to assess the damage. Efforts were underway to identify well numbers of overturned tanks, necessary information for determining where the damage was occurring and what listed chemicals might be mingling with floodwaters.

    (Photo/East Boulder County United via Facebook)

    (Photo/East Boulder County United via Facebook)

    Because Colorado regulations do not require oil and gas companies to disclose specifics regarding chemicals deemed trade secrets, there’s no concrete way to assess what residents are potentially being exposed to. Oil and gas companies must only declare the chemical families to which these trade secret chemicals belong.

    “It’s clear that the density of the oil and gas activity there did not respect where the water would go,” Cliff Willment, an anti-fracking advocate told the Daily Camera. “What we immediately need to know is what is leaking and we need a full detailed report of what that is. This is washing across agricultural land and into the waterways. Now we have to discuss what type of exposure the human population is going to have to suffer through.”

    Officials with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association say 24-hour incident command centers have been manned to evaluate the situation, acknowledging the potential for risk. The state’s Department of Natural Resources is working with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to assess potentially damaged areas.

    “COGCC will be working with state and local authorities to assess risks and, where necessary, provide environmental response and remediation,” Todd Hartman of the Colorado DNR told the Daily Camera.

    After some tanks broke free from drill site facilities, the DNR says it has called for more protective measures, opting to chain down tanks to prevent additional tanks from floating away.

    (Photo/East Boulder County United via Facebook)

    (Photo/East Boulder County United via Facebook)

    Anadarko, an oil and gas company operating in Colorado, released a statement saying approximately 600 of its fracking wells had been shut down due to the flood, stopping short of naming any specific hazards posed by flooded well sites.

    “The safety of our communities and protection of the environment are paramount to all our operations, and due to the widespread flooding in northeastern Colorado, Anadarko has shut in approximately 600 operated wells located within the Wattenberg field,” the company said in the statement. “The majority of our drilling, completions and workover activities in the affected areas of the field have been shut down. … In the meantime, we continue to utilize air service to monitor the basin, and we have construction crews on standby and available to assist with any potential issues.”

    (Photo/East Boulder County United via Facebook)

    (Photo/East Boulder County United via Facebook)

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