2008 Divide Creek Seep
|Since August, 2008, some new things have happened with the
1) The COGCC returned to sample the area on September 25, 2008 and again on October 14th (a different specialist - same supervisor, unfortunately). As of today, No results have been released from that effort. We have, however, received word that preliminary results show that all is A-okay.
2) The ground water subsided in the fall of 2008, drying the two ponded areas and making them unavailable for sampling. However, we discovered a second area of upwelling that now appears to be in some way connected to the upwelling in the main 2008 seep area. This pool was sampled.
3) The ground water is upwelling once again (as of approx. November 10th) suggesting that it is not only being pushed to the surface, but it likely doing so along with methane which is also seeping to the surface - the two often go hand in hand.
I don't think this is necessarily a new seep - unless new drilling activities have triggered another seep using the same pathways to the surface. A big problem with diagnosing these situations is that the COGCC is allowing EnCana to hammer down on a ridiculously aggressive program in this region known for difficult and problematic drilling events. Not only does the COGCC ignore what is going on and refuse to see the big picture, but they allow EnCana to begin a new well without even knowing let alone acknowledging the effects of the previous drilling process. Still though, this is probably all related to the same single event (I hope).
On December 04, 2008 The COGCC sampled this ground water as it flowed into the ponded areas.
In the next photo, you'll see iron-reducing bacteria still going strong under the bank near the beaver house just east of the two ponded areas. This area has demonstrated this characteristic consistently since late June - drier, but still kind of weepy, like the expressing ground water here never quite totally went away. [12-13-08]
In the next two photos you'll see the same kind of bacteria flourishing on the south side of the creek - just across from the beaver house. The first is a distant shot... but the second shows an up-close view of the precipitate - so thick and orange it looks like paint (even in these cold, winter temperatures which one would think would retard bacterial activity). This is exactly what the springs looked like at the "main seep" site in 2004. [both photos were taken: 12-13-08]
Just behind this south-side of the 2008 seep is a large area of vegetation die-off. This summer the area was struggling for life all the while fringed by a row of healthy reeds and grasses (seen in the larger photo above). Just behind that fringe, however, is a dead zone visible in the photo below. It is the area of nearly bare ground covered in snow. The south-side of the 2008 seep flows beneath this area and the paralyzed frog was found in the creek just to the left. This photo was taken [12-19-08]
There are actually several of these areas on the property now. Just utterly barren areas of bare ground that suddenly appeared with the June event but that are surrounded by lush, healthy vegetation. This is typical of methane-kill. The only really large areas, however (other the one just above) are show below in the meadow areas around the Schwartz pad site (entry #5)..
4) Gas continues to accumulate in the creek-bed where the frog was found paralyzed and gas streamed for more than 8 straight minutes back in the spring of 2008. The COGCC refuses to sample this, dismissing the gas (that only wants to accumulate in this small 15' x 15' section of the creek bed) as natural beaver pond gas. This is their argument even though the beaver pond existed less than a year and was completely scoured away this spring (along with much of the creek bed). But the gas continues to accumulate. No testing.
Both photos above of the bubbles in the creek-bed were taken on 10-19-08. Anytime you try to capture bubbles in a still picture, you miss some of the volume, even considering that, though - you can see how much gas has built up in this small area. These bubbles express to the surface on their own (to a much less observable degree), but really release under pressure when I just walk around in the creek in this area. The silty content beneath the gravels is simply acting like a sponge and holding onto this gas. Of course, while it is retained in the soils, bugs go to work on it and convert some of it to their own brand of methane which could make it appear to be biogenic. Common sense will tell you, however, that organic matter does not degrade to this degree this quickly. It is much more likely to be coming up from formation gas as a result of drilling. in this micro-fractured geology. Again, this is where the paralyzed frog was found, which the COGCC environmental specialist simply dismissed before finally walking off the sampling effort. A video of these bubbles is forthcoming.
Good news on this front - Dr. Geoffrey Thyne, of Science Based Solutions has provided a conclusion for the Phase II hydrogeologic study commissioned by Garfield County after the 2004 event. Of course, much of the geology in this and the 2004 seep area was excluded from the study - at EnCana's urging, but his analysis provides tremendous insight into what is really going on around here. Dr. Thyne also exposes ways in which methane can be falsely identified as biogenic (biodegrading of organic matter in near-surface environments) when it is thermogenic (formation gas).
The sampling analytical method currently favored by the COGCC and Cordilleran is scientifically rational; however, it is a select methodology which supports a desired outcome. Conversely, the methodology discussed by Dr. Thyne is a more complete, representative and objective method which moreover provides critical insight into correlative events and truly shows natural gas drilling impacts where these impacts are occurring.
Like statistics, other forms of complex scientific analysis can be used to argue for or against anything, depending upon how it is manipulated. A complex approach, broad opportunity for interpretation; limitations of equipment developed and calibrated in accordance with expected or desired results - all of these things can influence not only the scientific method selected and used - but how it is applied to any given situation.
In instances where politics and big money are forces against science, science can be buried and bent to its will. Unfortunately, this is an increasing trend in a world governed by huge and well-funded corporate interests.
When it comes to gas chromatographs and isotopic analysis in water - complicated chemistry, politics, and big money can all get involved.
5) Massive areas of vegetation die-off are occurring top-side of the canyon. It is reasonable to think that methane that became very evident in June in Summerhawk Valley has taken longer to work its way up through geology to a surface location some 300 feet higher in elevation. So now, the methane appears to be saturating the same areas that were affected in 2004. Of course, the COGCC argues against this - big surprise.
Unfortunately, the delayed and piece-meal approach to sampling that the COGCC has taken has been too little too late, all of which has culminated in this latest impact. I rejoiced. And I do mean rejoiced when Macke resigned as Director of the COGCC. And I rejoiced when the Commission was expanded to nine - and the conflicts of interest were diminished by appointing others outside of the natural gas industry. Unfortunately, an foreseen consequence is the influx of some folks in the administrative, environmental and engineering disciplines unfamiliar with the 2004 event and not terribly quick at connecting dots that we've seen before. There is either a total absence of political will or a total vacuum of intelligence. Whichever it is, grave degradation is occurring and the comatose agency suckling at the teat of this bloated industry is only enabling it.
Perhaps this seems like a harsh assessment, but I am desperately sounding the alarm as our home is continually desecrated and our health continually threatened. We have lived with this land for eighty-three seasons. It is dying. The once vibrant, clean water that flowed from the mountains and from deep sweet-water springs is on life support. The air is choked with volatile organic compounds, the wildlife have fled and now the land itself is withering. It feels like we are frantically reporting the growing suite of symptoms of a dying patient to a physician who has sent the patient home to live a healthy normal life. This experience is crushing our hearts and our spirits. And if I seem critical of an agency doing its best to uphold the lustrous model of government efficiency, and a global industrial interest driven strictly by its quest for resource... this is why.
These photos [both taken 09-08-04 - the fall following the massive 2004 seep] show die-off of vegetation emanating from the Schwartz pad and spreading across nearby fields (our upper field is shown in the right-hand photo). Several linear areas of trees died off as well on several properties. We were told by the Forest Service that the sudden and dramatic yet concentrated tree die off was attributed to beetle kill. Interestingly, it had never been a problem since we've lived here and it hasn't been a problem since (until the 2008 seep). EnCana tested for soil gas but found no evidence of any release. However, the testing was performed in the fall of 2004, several months after the seep was remediated. The photo to the left is looking North (the Schwartz well is about top-third of photo and a little to the left. The photo to the right is looking South across our upper meadow.
This shows an aerial view of the dead vegetation - again, looking North. [09-17-04]
This is the same photo as the one to the left but which demonstrates linear trends of dead vegetation. The upper left-hand side of photo says: "Schwartz Pad Site" and points downward to the pad. The white box to the right is the Price/Juniper Group area (no impacts shown here - in 2004 - or, now - in 2008). The dark ground just beyond the vehicles in the middle-ground right, is a corral area for horses (not a methane impact area). [09-17-04]
|This photo (looking N.W., shows a rig up on the Schwartz site back in 2004 - in the fall, right after an (still) unexplained re-pressurization occurred. The foreground in this photo is the Price or Juniper Group area (healthy grass field). Just beyond the fence line is the Schwartz (areas of die-off still evident from the spring seep) [09-17-04]|
Okay, let's move forward in time to the fall of 2007
After the Schwartz well found responsible for the seep associated with this condition was remediated, the grass grew back (the next spring, of course). And the fields remained healthy for several years - until EnCana came back and began drilling from this site again.
But, even in the photo below, you can see that the field was still in good shape.
It took a while for problems to occur and make themselves evident.
Given EnCana's reputation of trashing an environment and then trying to cover it up; and given the COGCC's tendency to protect industrial interests to the detriment of landowners and the environment, I anticipated this happening again, so took photos of the fields prior to EnCana embarking on their aggressive new project. This rig was set up in the fall of 2007. You can see that the Schwartz field was healthy then. [10-13-07]
It was around this time, however, that we first began noticing gas in Divide Creek. The gas and evidence of a seep would increase from this point forward, finally culminating in discovery of another seep in late June of 2008 - months away from the time this photo was taken....
Now, let's move forward in time to the fall of 2008
You know all the other stuff that has happened up to this point as it has been documented on the other 8 seep pages devoted to this event. But, now, as of early November, I began noticing dead vegetation in the the fields again. This condition worsened until it has become clear that there is definite tracts of dead vegetation emanating (once again) from the Schwartz pad across nearby fields - just like... in fact, almost exactly like.... happened in the spring of 2004.
|11-17-08 Here is the Schwartz - covered with more dead areas than live. But the adjacent property.... in the next photo...||[11-17-08] looks pretty good - again, like it did in 2004.
Another view of these fields from summer can be seen on page 6 of the Divide Creek Seep 2008 pages.
[11-17-08] This is our upper field. Again, blotched through with dead vegetation.
[11-17-08] Drilling zone just North of Schwartz. It's incredible - there are pads and tanks and roads everywhere. This is critical elk habitat. Or it was. It makes me absolutely sick to see this kind of heedless and wanton devastation of land and habitat... industry using this land for one purpose and that is to gain greater wealth through resource extraction... landowner's making money off of royalties - maybe absentee... maybe not... agencies looking the other way... this is the result. Waste and abuse.
|This is a view of the ground facing SE - just across from the Schwartz site. You can see dead ground extending off into the distance over the hill. [12-12-08]||Okay, let's turn to the right and look across the road in the middle ground and over toward the SW - same ground - only about 50 or 60 yards away. See how this grass is in good shape? [12-12-08]|
|Amazingly - the COGCC says that the grass die off is caused
from a lack of irrigation. Huh. Now that is a wild assumption based on the
fact that this land has only been irrigated during one growing season in the
twenty years we've lived here - and that was probably close to ten years
ago. This land, our land, the Schwartz land, the Juniper Group and another
neighbor's land.... none of the land is irrigated. The growth is dry-land
plantings and native vegetation. Now, what is truly fascinating here is that
the same ground shows different states of vegetative health. One appears to
have been impacted by a methane seep and the other area has not. The
appearance of the vegetation is not surprising, because this is exactly how
methane seeps in terrestrial areas behave. This is exactly what happened in
2004. Underground faults and fissures exit to the surface in different
areas, so you can have two areas adjacent to one another - one looking
fine, the other dead. It's the same thing in water.... bubbles here - no
bubbles there. This ground was fine last year when both areas looked
like the one you see to the right.
Here's something else amazing. COGCC said that the other reason for the dead looking ground was that it was after the growing season. Uh huh... is that why there is still stubble on the ground to the right?
The COGCC could reasonably ascertain the methane in this soil with a simple soil gas monitor installation (small canister about a foot deep). But they refuse to sample. Instead, they'd rather put what's left of their credibility in a false assumption utter without basis.
I got a phone call from a guy in Wisconsin the other day who said he and his wife had been thinking of moving to the West - hoping to find solace from industrial development by moving to the mountains. But after learning about what is going on here, he called to say it it's happening everywhere. There is no where that is not on target to become a desecrated industrialized wasteland. Yep - that's pretty much it. As the majority of folks embark upon a path of global resource exploitation and a mere handful of others try to advocate for sustainable and responsible development, it doesn't take a genius to see where we're headed. It does make me question, however, my own sanity in trying to defend against it. You've heard of the industrial age, the information age - this is the desecration age, and our own specie's demise cannot be far away.
|Half truths and how the COGCC
intentionally or unintentionally encourages exploitation
and waste of resources
The environmental folks with the COGCC don't want to acknowledge what is going on here. They didn't want to deal with it in 2004 either, which is why by the time any soil/gas sampling occurred, it was months after the event and after the offending well was remediated.
Once again, what we are observing now could have happened in the summer of 2008, but only became evident after the grasses dried, lost a lot of their feathery seed heads and became more like straw - allowing us to really see the patterns of die-off.
The COGCC should immediately install soil/as detectors around the Schwartz well and in the impacted fields to determine to what degree methane is once again saturating the surface environment.
While I was on a tour of the seep area on December 04th, with the Interim Director of the COGCC, Cordilleran explained away the sudden death of a number of oaks and cottonwoods in the "main" 2004 seep area as having succumbed to fungus, etc... Unfortunately, what was not mentioned, was that the trees died suddenly with the sudden expression of millions of cubic feet of methane into the environment. In fact, there is still a tract struggling to support life - just above groundwater benzene expression. They don't acknowledge that vegetation - when it isn't killed immediately - can slowly suffocate or become temporarily stressed to the point that fungus or other bugs attack in what becomes a natural process of nature recycling the dead and diseased. They just don't tell you that methane set the whole process in devastating motion. So anyway, EnCana then cut down those trees, drug them away and replanted the area in grasses. Now, it just looks like a nice grassy meadow (and you also wouldn't know that beneath the roots, big air sparging wells are bubbling oxygen into the ground and volatilizing (ripping apart by way of oxygen exposure) methane gas. If you didn't know the history, you'd never guess what really happened there.
And, of course - as trees and leaf canopy, as well as vast tracts of vital elk and deer forage die-off across our property it is happening again.
And again, it is being dismissed.
It's unfortunate that the COGCC - the agency with oversight over these operations - is so unwilling to acknowledge these impacts - by first denying to sample, and then by making an effort to explain it away by some other means. Not only does this degrade the environment, it is a waste of resource - which is counter to the COGCC mandate. The COGCC wants every drop of gas extracted and accounted for. After all, the gas equals big-time money for EnCana, the federal government, the state and the county. This approach also, however, merely encourages EnCana to exploit us, our land and the resource they seek to extract at any cost.
Meanwhile, as the methane continues to leach into the surface soils and destroy the plant life, vital habitat, forage and cover is destroyed, wildfire danger increases and erosion of the Rocky Mountain's precious topsoil occurs at an induced and accelerated rate. This impacts riparian areas by chocking streams with silt and other run-off particulates, and diminished vital shade over waters.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission.
A collision of rampant greed and dumb-assery. State-sponsored plunder and devestation.
From: Journal of Arboriculture 3(8): August 1977 153
The Effect of Natural
When manufactured gas was used in homes and industry, a leak in the gas main could result in sudden death to nearby vegetation. The death of plants was acknowledged by all to be the result of toxic components such as cyanogen which formed hydrocyanic acid when mixed with water and carbon monoxide. It was simple to determine if manufactured gas was present in soil atmosphere by placing a potted tomato plant in a hole in the "suspect" area. If manufactured gas was present, another of its components — ethylene — resulted in severe epinasty of the tomato leaves within 24 hours.
With the swing to use of natural gas the question arose whether a gas leak in soil could injure plants. It was known that natural gas in itself was apparently non-toxic to plants. However, the death of trees and other vegetation in the vicinity of a gas leak in soil was still quite common.
Natural gas was known to be dryer than manufactured gas, and the gas companies were soon faced with an increased number of gas leaks as natural gas dried out the packing at the joints of underground pipes, and the leaks resulted.
Despite the dead vegetation in the vicinity of natural gas, there were those who claimed that non-toxic gas could not possibly be responsible for death of vegetation. However there were those who would refute this. A speaker at the 1958 annual meetings of the New Jersey Federation of Shade Tree Commissions was Mr. Milton W. Heath, Jr., of the Heath Survey Consultants, Wellesley, Massachusetts. The Heath Company operated a service of detecting gas leaks in soil, serving over 650 utility companies in 47 states. Two excerpts from the presentation by Mr. Heath are as follows: "Let me state beforehand that our Company has been locating gas leaks by the effects of gas on vegetation for over 25 years, and the transition from manufactured gas to natural gas has not impaired the ability of our consultants to accomplish this whatsoever. In fact, the overall effects are more striking with natural gas in many instances than they were with manufactured gas, one reason being the increased pressures natural gas is distributed under, which results in greater volume loss."
"Some will contend that there is no effect on vegetation from natural gas but again, as I mentioned previously, our experience proves otherwise and, in fact, our business functions as a result of this fact that vegetation IS affected by this gas."
For a number of years some utility companies refused to accept claims against them for trees allegedly killed by gas leaks when natural gas was involved. However, one of these companies, even though originally claiming "no fault" did pay the City of New York for "Trees apparently killed by natural gas." (New York World Telegram, July 13, 1961; and Da/7y News, July 14, 1961.)
Tests conducted by Braverman, Ettinger and Jacobs, and reported in the technical section of Gas Age, April 26, 1962, described the results of their determination of air quality in soil where natural gas was associated with dead trees. They reported higher percentage of methane, up to 10% carbon dioxide, and less than 5% oxygen in soil near recently killed trees. By contrast, they observed a lack of methane, 3 to 4% carbon dioxide, and 20% oxygen in the root area of healthy trees. Their final comment was — "The results obtained in this set of experiments are fairly consistent. In the absence of any counter evidence it appears that trees are damaged and killed by methane and the concomitant lack of oxygen."
For years scientists, as well as the industrialists who recognized that vegetation would die in the vicinity of natural gas leaks, did not know the chain of events leading up to the plant death. It was conjectured that the natural gas under pressure replaced the oxygen in the soil which 1 Presented to the National Arborist Assn. seminar on pollution damage to trees, December 1976, at New Brunswick, N.J.154 Davis: Effect of Natural Gas was so necessary for root survival and also that its extreme dryness caused roots to die from dehydration.
It was not until 1972 that the scientific answer to the question of gas damage was established and reported in a paper in Soil Science, Volume 113, pages 46-54. In that paper "Changes in Composition in Soil Air Near Leaks in Natural Gas Mains" by J. Hoeks, the reason was presented. The paper begins "During the last four or five years because of its disastrous influence on plantations in towns and villages, leakage of natural gas from underground mains has become a real problem in the Netherlands and also in other Western European Countries." The paper then goes on to describe the experiments: Natural gas containing approximately 82% methane, 14% nitrogen, 1 % carbon dioxide and minor quantities of- other hydrocarbons, was released in the "normal soils." The normal soil had an oxygen content of approximately 18%, and 3% carbon dioxide. After a period of gas release (varying number of weeks, pressures and temperatures), the oxygen concentration became extremely low, almost zero percent, and the carbon dioxide rose to up to 15%. The extremely low oxygen concentration is regarded as the most important cause of death of the trees.
The low oxygen content may be caused in part by the displacement of the soil air by the leaking gas, but much more so by intensive oxygen consumption as a result of methane oxidation. Methane consuming bacteria multiply in methane contaminated soil using up the oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide.
The microbiologic investigation proved that the oxidation of methane is brought about by methane consuming bacteria and the oxygen is depleted during the process. In a normal soil in which there is no natural gas, there are few or no methane consuming bacteria. Therefore, just after the start of a gas leak the rate of oxidation of the methane is slow. However, after a period of time the methane utilizing bacteria increase and in turn the concentration of oxygen in the soil will decrease.
As stated by Heath in 1958, and accepted by many observers during the interim when natural gas has pretty much displaced manufactured gas, trees and other vegetation did die in the vicinity of gas leaks in soil even though the scientific reasons were not known.
The results described by Hoeks in his recent paper now give us the scientific answers to the question, "Why do plants die as a result of leaks of natural gas in soil?"
Department of Plant Pathology Cook College-Rutgers University New Brunswick, N.J.
Letter sent via e-mail to COGCC 12-10-08
Re: New (2008) Divide Creek Seep / My previous letter to COGCC dated: July 29, 2008
December 10, 2008
Dear Mr. Neslin and COGCC Commissioners,
I am writing to thank you, Mr. Neslin, for visiting the 2008 Divide Creek seep site together with an environmental specialist and engineer on December 04, 2008.
Mr. Neslin, as you know, our concern remains for the ground water in the region that appears to have been impacted by a seep that was reported June 29th 2008.
As you are aware, the upwelling and surface expression of ground water associated with the emergence of this seep subsided in early autumn. It returned November 10th 2008. I appreciate the COGCC collecting surface samples of this water on the 12-04-08 visit. The ground water in this area still, however, has not been sampled, and I ask and urge you to do so immediately. We obtain our domestic water from this source and are very concerned for volatile hydrocarbon constituents which do not have an opportunity to volatilize at the surface and so may be present in the ground water yet to express to the surface.
In preparation for this visit, I also asked the COGCC to sample the gas which continues to accumulate in a small area of West Divide Creek. The sampling of the gas, however, did not occur. I am asking once again that the COGCC sample the gas which continues to accumulate. I was told the reason the gas was not sampled was because the COGCC’s engineers found no anomalous activities which would raise questions as to the origin of the gas. I was also told that beaver ponds release gas for years after their forming. I’d like to point out that I believe this gas is relative to recent drilling activity in this area. The gas is located in the flowing creek itself, but only in an isolated area, perhaps 15’ x 15’. The beaver pond that was once there only existed for less than a year before it was washed away and the creek bed was scoured by 2008 spring run-off. I believe the gas present is formation gas. It is in the area where the paralyzed frog was found; in the same area as gas that expressed to the surface for more than eight continuous minutes in the spring of 2008, and is in an area where vegetation is struggling to grow. The gas is flammable.
Because there are now large areas above Divide Creek – near the Schwartz pad - experiencing vegetation die-off, I further request that the COGCC conduct soil/gas sampling around the Schwartz pad site and surrounding, impacted fields. In recent months, it appears that methane gas is once again escaping into the surface environment. The fields were appraised by COGCC staff on 12-04-08, but I was told no action would be taken because there is no knowledge of land management practices relative to those fields. In the twenty years we have lived here, none of the fields in question have been irrigated (except for a brief instance many years ago on the Griffin property) and all fields are planted similarly in dry-land and native vegetations. The large tracts of dead vegetation appear exactly as they did in the spring of 2004 at the height of the massive methane release from the Schwartz pad (Divide Creek Seep). Other large areas of dead vegetation exist near the seep area in Divide Creek. The effects of natural gas and methane on vegetation have been known since 1977. Such an escape is causing the destruction of critical elk and deer habitat and is further a waste of natural gas resources.
In my continuing efforts to ascertain the source of environmental degradation that has occurred and continues to occur in this region, I spoke with an engineer on December 05, 2008 and learned that the Schwartz well 11-2A did, in fact experience a ‘kick’ which exerted ‘shoe’ pressures very near to that which successfully degrades the formation during fracing operations. This increase in pressure occurred within 1000’ feet of the surface and perhaps closer to the surface given the extreme likelihood of intersecting faults in this area (again, the patterns of dead vegetation emanating from the Schwartz site substantiates this suspicion). A remedial cement job was required, requested and completed in January, 2008 – two days after the procedure was approved by the COGCC.
Given the similarities of this seep to the seep in 2004, I strongly suspect that kick (and possibly other similar events before and/or since) caused or contributed to the adverse environmental effects we are experiencing. The seep we initially saw at the end of June likely made its way some 1000 feet up through the formation from January 2008 first expressing in April and even more so in June. It’s taken the methane another few months to find its way up through the additional 300 feet in elevation to the top of the canyon at the fields, where we now see it emanating from the Schwartz pad and across nearby fields – exactly like we did in 2004. The timetable of migration is consistent. I think this ‘kick’ degraded the fragile geologic formation sufficiently to cause another seep. Because of the recent resurgence of ground water, my guess is that more methane is coming up also. Gas pushes ground water upward through geology. This is not the diagnosis of a genius. A review of drilling records prior to the 2004 seep as well as the events leading up to the 2004 seep will show that even “moderate” pressures in this fragile formation lead to surface methane seeps. Dr. Geoffrey Thyne’s analysis of the Phase II Hyrogeologic study of this area also bears out continued impacts to water from methane as a result of drilling operations in this specific area.
That this was allowed to happen again and is being ignored is a travesty.
It is abundantly clear that the East Mamm Creek Field Order and stipulations are insufficient to safeguard the environment or the people living within it from ever more devastating environmental events like the one that occurred in 2004 and is occurring again. You may recall the 16-page letter I submitted as a public comment outlining our concerns as the Commission debated proposed rules. I sated in that letter that we experienced a silent spring in 2004. Now we have experienced a silent summer. Most of the wildlife have disappeared from this area and have yet to return. We’ve experienced an estimated thirty-percent die-off of trees, leaf canopy and ground-cover vegetation. This is of even greater concern, given that we are under contract with the USDA to preserve a once-again devastated riparian area.
I am astounded and frustrated by the COGCC’s reluctance to examine the totality of adverse effects we have experienced and documented in the Divide Creek area since EnCana was allowed and encouraged to embark on a very aggressive drilling program in this region. The confrontational environmental specialist ignoring the capture of a paralyzed frog in an area to be sampled, and that specialist walking off the project left me wondering what the purpose of the COGCC really is.
There has been very little oversight and an abundance of what appears to be a concerted effort to avoid an investigation of the area; debase the validity of our concerns and observations; and obfuscate clear facts that appear to correlate effects with a cause. I believe this ‘disconnect’ is occurring within the supervisory staff of the environmental department of the COGCC. Without an acknowledgement of environmental impacts, how can engineering draw conclusions as to a probable cause and create solutions? They cannot, and the destruction of our private property and the broader environment is allowed to continue.
I remind you that even without new and improved rules, there are rules that exist to protect against and could have prevented in large measure what is occurring on our property as I write this.
I am immensely thankful for the common-sense and principled concern consistently expressed by COGCC Commissioner Tresi Houpt. It is only thanks to Mrs. Houpt that this serious and alarming situation has received any interest and response from the COGCC at all – during, ironically, the deliberation by the COGCC over rules better intended to protect public health and the environment.
Because of encroaching winter weather, time is running out for easy access to the affected areas. Therefore, in the interest of expediency, this is a summary letter of a much longer letter to soon follow which will detail these issues and cite references with regard to not only the improper delineation of the Divide Creek seep in 2004, but also the systemic failures of the COGCC to oversee renewed drilling in the area and investigate adverse impacts of those activities upon the environment.
The conduct of this agency which enjoys jurisdictional primacy over issues of environmental and pubic health has been appalling; not only with regard to this latest event, but particularly in light of everything learned in 2004. The circumstances surrounding this event are so similar to 2004 that the COGCC’s refusal to fully investigate must be called into formal question.
Copies of this forthcoming letter will be sent to, among others, the office of the Governor and all agency recipients which received copies of the correspondence referenced above.
Our observations continue to be documented for your personal analysis on the website www.journeyoftheforsaken.com, specifically, www.journeyoftheforsaken.com/divdecreekseep2008.htm
Please see attached:
Photos of the Schwartz area and surrounding fields with dead vegetation:
10-13-07 Schwartz field healthy grass [this demonstrates the grass that had grown back after 2004 blow out and relatively successful remediation]
Dead grassy patches 09-17-04 across Schwartz and nearby fields [this photo shows what the Schwartz area looked like after the blow-out]
Schwartz 11-17-08 showing area of dead vegetation [this photo demonstrates the dead patches that have returned in concert with new seep in Divide Creek]
Article from the: Journal of Arboriculture 3(8): August 1977 153“The Effect of Natural Gas on Trees and Other Vegetation” by Spencer H. Davis, Jr.
PowerPoint Presentation “Divide Creek Seep 2008” by myself as presented to Garfield County Commissioners in an effort to secure ground water sampling of seep area.
Thank you for your continued considerations of this matter.
COGCC Results and Conclusions
The results are in from the sampling effort that occurred in the fall. You can find the COGCC's 9-page summary report and findings; our response to that letter; and, tables revealing thermogenic methane in the ground water (shown in documentation that was kept from us for nearly two and half years).
Soon, I'll append all that stuff to a 'page 10', but for now, you can check it all out on the Week 69 update.
Other Relevant Links
Compare the 2004 Seep with the 2008 Seep with video (scroll down to Video section)
Divide Creek Then - 2004 [Seep photos and information]
Divide Creek 'Now' - 2007 [Prior to the seep event of June 28, 2008]
Timeline of events [From January 2004 to present]
COGCC 2004 Divide Creek Seep Order (judgment) and Vital
Exhibit showing faulting. (in
particular, you may find paragraphs 10, 20, 30 and 73 of interest).
Dr. Geoffrey Thyne's (of Science Based
Solutions) presentation to Garfield County
Re: "Sumary of PI and PII Hydrogeologic Characterization Studies - Mamm Creek
Area, Garfield County, CO" This key
PowerPoint presentation and its companion conclusive report provide an outstanding perspective of the dynamics
at play between the hydrology and the geology of this area in particular as
it specifically relates to drilling operations and risks to water supplies.
Please look for these links at the following addresses:
Conclusions - http://garfield-county.com/Index.aspx?page=1149
Incomplete List of Hydraulic Fracturing Constituents (with MSDS sheets)
Garfield County Gas Wells and Pipelines
COGCC Quarterly Complaint Reports
Analysis of the West Divide
This statement was imbedded as a footer in an general mailing docket and staff report I received from the COGCC this month.
P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail
I am totally speechless...
2008 Divide Creek Seep
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