2008 Divide Creek Seep
This photo shows Divide Creek just upstream of the beaver hooch in what was once the second beaver pond in this area. The orange area in the left foreground is one area of seepage, although it is occurring all along this bank all the way to the end of the rocks near the mud bank. The waters from this seep are flowing over the small island and into the main streambed. If you look a little further up on the left middle-ground, you'll see another significant area. In the waters there, you may see some faint bluish reflections.... those are thin floating biofilm crusts - they look like an oil slick but they are not. This seep was discovered on the afternoon of Saturday, June 28, 2008. This are was underwater as of last spring because of a beaver meadow (which we noted bubbling in) and it was underwater most recently after the beaver dam washed out because of spring run-off. This area has only recently been exposed. [06-28-08]
Here you can see the seep flowing into Divide Creek's main stream bed. [06-28-08]
|Another view of the seep making it's way into Divide Creek
You know that orange area in the left foreground of the first photo up top? Well, this is the stuff up close. [06-28-08]
Update - 08-12-08 Through a conversation with a hydrologist this week, I learned that CO2 (carbon dioxide), present in natural gas and often used as a fracing gas, elevates water Ph and allows for this type of proliferation, strongly indicating a drilling related mishap. CO2 also mobilizes toxic metal like fluoride and arsenic into ground and surface water - but to date (08-12-08) the COGCC refuses to test the ground water for either BTEX (likely present if this is due to a drilling mishap) or toxic metals.
This photo shows stuff streaming into Divide Creek from the right middle ground. There is another small stream at the upper right. The streams look clear, but on the bottom, there is a dark substance. This is the same area where we photographed the streaming biofilm a few weeks ago. We notified the COGCC then, but again - no one was interested. [06-28-08]
After discovering the orange seep and biofilm seeping into Divide Creek, I pursued more diligent poking around and stumbled upon this seep. We've never seen anything like this. It is some kind of black ooze bubbling out of the ground in the sand bar at the base of the cliff. If you go to the Walkabout and look at the top photo - that is the sandbar where this seep was located. The rivulet is somewhat dried and shiny and a little iridescent - like tar or oil or - I don't know what. The super black lines beneath the seepage are just shadows where the sandbar is cracking part. Anyway, I put a full-on high resolution photo of this nasty seepage on its own page like the orange nasty, so if you want to zoom in - really zoom in and have a look at it you can. [06-28-08]
Note - 07-13-08: what the hell was I talking about in the second sentence above? I was reviewing my notes, since it's good to go back and do that and fix mistakes that you don't catch in the heat of initial communication - but I cannot figure out what I was talking about "photo on the right"? The picture above is the photo on the right.
I think what I meant to say was that in the photo immediately above.... the little black seep on the left.... that one corresponds to the close-up photo on the left. I hope that's more clear.
Eerily the same....
Read the synopsis of the discovery below to view
photos of nearly identical seep characteristics from the 2004 (and still
on-going) seep event.
|Entry - 06-29-08
Report made to EPA - National Response Center
I tried Saturday
to reach the COGCC, and again on Sunday, but their main number seems to be
out of order. I tried to reach the COGCC field office in parachute on
Sunday, but that number registered a circuit's busy signal. Finally, I
reached the cell number of one of the field inspectors, but could only leave
a message. I guess because it's the weekend no one is around to handle
calls. As a last resort I contacted the Environmental Protection Agency
Sunday evening at around 6:00 PM and filed an official report. We'll have to
wait now and see if anyone responds.
Synopsis of New, June 28, 2008 Seep Discovery
If you've been following this blog, you know that we began tracking the bubbling in the creek near this location last summer.
At one point, when the bubbling became significant, EnCana contracted with Cordilleran to sample the pond. The results showed the activity to be biogenic [please see week 10 for details on the sampling and our position on the results].
COGCC conducted a follow-up sampling and found the activity to be likewise – although, by then the pond was frozen over and a sample had to be collected streamside.
Since that time we’ve documented an increase in bubbling – culminating in our video-tapping of an eight-minute continuous release on April 06, 2008 [please see week 28].
Then, we found small vent holes on the bank where gas had been escaping. These holes were accompanied by thin rivulets of blue biofilm. [please see week 30]
We discovered this seep on Saturday, June 28, 2008 – after high waters from run off receded.
The seeping noted here demonstrates exactly the same characteristics that we witnessed on Langegger’s property on April 01, 2004 – the same day the first 2004 Divide Creek seep was discovered.
pictures from that event dated May 16, 2004.
The photo above shows a spring on Mr. Langegger's property. You can see that the orange glop and biofilm are identical characteristics of what we now see on our property where the beaver pond was until this spring's run-off. [05-16-04]
The spring meets with Divide Creek. Beneath it you can
see the proliferation of biofilm. [05-16-04] You can see what the
spring looks like today by visiting
Note: on 07-01-08 I discovered an error in my date notation of the photos above. I had inadvertently written [05-16-08] when I meant to write [05-16-04]. I have corrected that oversight. Again, to be clear, the three photos immediately above were taken on Mr. Langegger's property during the Schwartz site-related gas seep. This spring and others cleared after remediation of the Schwartz well which was later found by COGCC to have been improperly cemented and then fraced anyway. Today (July 03, 2008, however, the bank near the active vent which continues to release benzene, is still covered in the orange muck.)
Even though the seep was originally discovered on our property and Steve Thompson’s property, the COGCC’s attention immediately shifted to Langegger’s property where the seep was perhaps 40-60% more energized (with the presence of a “mother vent the size of a softball) and covered a 50% greater area. Even with repeated requests to then Director Brian Macke, we never received a response as to why the investigation of the seep suddenly focused almost exclusively on the Langegger property. Particularly when it had been initially discovered on ours and Mr. Thompson's; and, we continued to see dramatic bubbling in our beaver pond. To our knowledge, no testing was even conducted at the place where the seep was initially discovered and according to a conversation with EnCana’s hydrologist – during the time that EnCana was trying to convince us that our water well didn’t need any further testing - even EnCana’s hydrologist was unaware that that initial location of initial discovery was ever involved the seep. I asked him if he wanted to examine any additional data before he recommended how soon he thought the seep would diminish – and he said he would examine it – that it could take a while. But we have heard nothing to date. It is interesting that the COGCC field inspectors and staff said they traced the seep activity up and down stream and found it to be only on Mr. Langegger’s property which immediately – during the investigation – became known as the “main seep” area. Why did they call it “main seep” when the COGCC denied that it was ever anywhere else – yet, at the same time, they were unwilling to explain to us what parameters defined the geographic scope of the release, insisting that it only occurred on Mr. Langegger’s property?
Later – only this year – we learned that Kaufman’s property further downstream of our property experienced gas bubbling in their creek around the same time as the seep, and purportedly, dead fish backed up on their dam and had to be removed by truck. The Kauffmans’ too, could light their creek on fire – hence the song “EnCana Blues”. After we discovered this song earlier this year during a conversation with the British Broadcasting Company, we thought the song was vicariously singing about all of our experiences here – up stream. But no. It was written about their own experiences. Yet, their situation was not a part of the 2004 Divide Creek Seep investigation – at least it was never mentioned in the hearing that lead to EnCana’s fine for the event.
From the very beginning, we never felt this “investigation” was handled properly and were forced to seek legal representation to receive acknowledgement of our part in it.
Even when EnCana resumed drilling of the Schwartz well last year, the environmental staffer from COGCC who responded to our concerns over new bubbling, was unaware that EnCana had even resumed drilling. Yet, his agency was the one that lifted the moratorium to allow it! You’d think after all the “investigative” hoopla around the 2004 event, the staff would be a little more up on anything having to do with the Schwartz. However, one of their environmental team – a supervisor - testified at the hearing that our beaver pond was “placid” despite there being a proliferation of bubbling to the surface similar to that of Langegger’s ponds.
Of course we told the COGCC at the time of the investigation that no bubbling had ever been seen at the pond location – or anywhere else on our property for that matter, and it even diminished and completely went away after the remediation of the Schwartz well, but they just didn’t acknowledge it. Unfathomable. But typical, none the less, of the way this situation has been handled from the beginning.
So, today, we see exactly what we saw on Langegger’s property in 2004. And leading up to this point we kept saying to EnCana – hey guys, this is going on…. There may be a problem. And EnCana’s environmental guy told us - it’s frogs – it’s fish – it’s beaver crap and accumulated debris in the stream – it’s natural. Then Cordilleran samples and says – yep – it’s natural – only biogenic gas from microbial activity. And we said – okay, if there is a proliferation of microbial activity – to such a degree that gas is escaping through established vent holes in the silt and even creating continuous streams of bubbles – what is contributing to that flourishing of microbes (which are attracted to natural gas constituents and even BTEX like benzene). No response. They simply continue to insist it is natural.
I don’t buy it. Not for one minute. We’ve never seen this type of activity in Divide Creek until April 01 of 2004. Now, we’re seeing it again - although perhaps on a lesser level (at least the dramatic bubbling part of it). But, common sense will tell even a non-scientist like me that there can be differing levels of a similar activity. Differing characteristics, even. For instance, we’ve never seen the black ooze seeping in Divide Creek like we are now – not even with the event in 2004. This is completely new. The only time we’ve ever seen the orange and bio-film was with the ’04 seep on Langegger’s property.
It will be interesting to see what any “investigation” leads to. But what do you want to bet we’re told it’s natural? What do you want to bet that they say this new seep has been here for thousands of years and this area is riddled with all kinds of stuff like this. That's after all exactly what they said about the 2004 seep. Again, as I did then, I challenge them to take a simple core sample. Microbes have an interesting habit of dying and leaving behind small calcified skeletal structures which can be detected in strata and therefore dated. But what do you want to bet that doesn't happen either? Even if it did, at this point, I would have to suspect any conclusions from any of their "experts". Kind of like their hydrologist who wasn't even aware of the seep on ours and Thompson's property, yet was reassuring me how it was so likely to go away. He didn't even know the extent of an event he was prognosticating.
I think the COGCC needs to reopen the 2004 investigation and reexamine the facts, facts that we believe were never fully vetted. It’s interesting that shortly after we reported newly observed bubbling in the new pond after EnCana resumed drilling of the Schwartz site, Macke resigned. Despite the same staff, we think the COGCC should reconsider the parameters by which they tend to define a “problem” (like randomly defined bradenhead pressures which are assumed to point to escaping gas and relate only to known adverse effects). They also need to reevaluate the prudence of allowing drilling to occur in this or any other highly vertical and horizontally faulted areas.
Because of the ‘focused efforts’ of the COGCC during the investigation of the ’04 seep, this region did not even benefit from the hydrological study commissioned by Garfield County afterward. So we got screwed twice. We still don’t know what is going on under this ground but they sure keep drilling it and we continue to discover weird things seeping into Divide Creek.
You know, after Week 10, when the results came in from the sampling and there was no further interest, despite our raising questions about the nature of the results, I was just totally bummed out. I mean, I didn't update the blog for a couple of weeks and then I got behind and it all just seemed so futile. We've just been there before, you know. Well, then I started feeling really bad about not keeping up with postings. I kept a digital journal but just didn't publish it - I mean it felt like no one was really listening anyway. I just kept apologizing to the occasional understanding reporter who would call and check in (they had been through it with us in 2004). And of course I felt terrible for the few folks who subscribed. But the last time we had to fight over the seep in 2004, I swear it took ten years off my life. We fought that hard. And then Dad passed away two years later from cancer. It took such a toll on our family. I wondered to myself - geeze, is it worth it? I don't know.
Then I had lunch with a friend a few months ago who is an admirably dedicated blogger, and she said this to me: "You can't not do this. It is that important. The public needs to know what is really going on." Then she said, "Just start up again, a blog is never really finished, just pick up from here and go back and do what you can as you can." That advice helped to lift the burden I'd allowed to increasingly weigh me down and bum me out. So.... I went in an cleaned up all my rough entries and published a few weeks to catch up.
But now, man, this feels like such a repeat of 2004. And I am really tired. Bird-dogging this industry is pretty taxing. After the relentless hammering by industry lobbyists these last few weeks - I mean, fighting rules that we all so desperately need - geeze Louise, it is a constant uphill battle. And it takes so much of your time, hope, energy - you name it. Plus, the last time, we managed to get the attention of an attorney who already had several suits pending against EnCana and the only reason he was interested was because there were potentially a lot of families involved. How sad is that - that one family just isn't worth the investment? I called him when we first started noticing the bubbling again. He said the same thing - there's not much you can do. He just wasn't interested unless there was widespread devastation and lots of people willing to form a class action lawsuit were involved. So, once again, we're even more on our own. Just like the rest of America - at the mercy of a giant corporation.
All this past couple of weeks, I'd been wanting to talk to the ancients, to pray, to ask what I should do - because once again, I feel this enormous obligation to what seems like everyone - the environment, the cirtters and plants in it - good, but clueless people who just don't understand the truth or its implications, and once again, I felt so powerless.
the ancients come to you and show you the way. I am just in awe of how they
work - they say God works in mysterious ways. Yes, I've seen that to be very
true. The seven eagles who spoke to my heart right before I discovered the
seep; the gentle crane feather, and tiny beautiful nest near the water's
edge. The small bright light above the black ooze in the photo. I feel them
with me. Just when you feel lowest - always - that's when the most beautiful
and extraordinary thing happens, the ancients reach in and gather you and
lift you and carry you. So, I just have to get over the shock and then I'll
be up and running again.... for everyone's sake, despite feeling so forsaken
by those who could really help better this situation but work so diligently
to keep it broken.
On Monday, 06-30-08 a COGCC field inspector came out and took a look around at the seep in Divide Creek.
Characterizations of the June 28, 2008 as compared to the April 01, 2004 seep
To characterize exactly what is occurring, I want to be very clear. In 2004, the seep that occurred (and is still active) as a result of an improperly cemented well originating on the Schwartz site - which EnCana fraced anyway, created a tremendous release of natural gas into the environment. That gas manifest itself in may ways - not all of which we feel were acknowledged. However, there were certain visual symptoms present such as: Natural gas bubbling into the waters of Divide Creek as well as the surrounding soil embankments. This gas bubbled at different rates in different areas. One area for instance, might yield a stream of bubbles that only vented from a small nickel or quarter-sized hole intermittently. Other vents were much larger and expressed gas more regularly. One vent in particular, the "mother vent" we called it, was the size of a softball and vigorously blew lots of small bubbles all at once (this one still blows) and the monitor well a few feet down stream of it still detects benzene. You can view the bubbling by clicking on the Timeline link.
Also, another very notable visual symptom of the seep in 2004 was the presence of orange gunk associated with underground springs on Mr. Langegger's property, which was the focus of the so-called "main seep". Also associated with the orange gunk was the proliferation of bio-film. This bio-film was identified by the COGCC as microbial activity. The springs flowed in a way that generated the orange gunk and biofilm until the Schwartz well was remediated, whereupon the springs eventually returned to their normal state. You can see pictures of the orange gunk and biofilm by clicking on the Timeline link.
We are seeing, now on our place - as of June 28th, 2008, an identical-appearing spring type seep event, but without the associated vigorous bubbling in the creek. In other words, there are springs seeping from the banks of the streambed which are producing orange gunk and biofilm which appear exactly like that which we saw associated with the 2004 event. There are several of these small springs, but even where there appears to be no evident spring, we are seeing orange gunk amass in certain other areas - all of which are aligned along an approximately 50 - 60 foot bank. The area has grown from approximately 40 feet to encompass ten to fifteen more feet as of 07-01-08 when a collection of other seeping orange gunk was found. Picture to follow:
Orange gunk seeping from bank just West of beaver house. [06-30-08]
Additionally, this new event has black substances seeping from the soils adjacent to Divide Creek. These we've never seen before, even in 2004. Small - from a penny to the size of a half-dollar vent holes are oozing a black substance - or perhaps only water or other clear substance that has some kind of black material associated with it. Three new vents were discovered on 07-01-08 - one about five feet, and the other two about fifteen feet West of the other two previously reported. In the early morning the three new vents ran black - and so did the other two first discovered, but by afternoon, the oozing from two of three newly discovered vents had subsisted and the two vents appeared dry. All of the black seeping vents are sequential in a relative east-west linear orientation. The two wet/dry holes were furthest West and were about the size of a quarter. Photos to follow
One of three newly discovered black vents [06-30-08]
[Notation added 07-13-08] There is also - about ten feet away to the east (closer to the creek) - a 4' length of small dry vents that run parallel to the linear depression and other vents noted above.
So, as far as the black seeping goes - we have no idea. But, as far as the orange seeping goes, we've seen it before. And here's how it breaks down....
1) This seep is a seep. Substances are seeping from the banks on the creek. There has been, however, some confusion over this word as some folks are tending to assume that it bears all of the same traits as the seep event in 2004. To be clear. We are unsure of the source of the seeping and hope to find out. We do not know whether it is toxic or whether it is relative to any industrial activity. All we know is what we observe and have comparatively observed.
2) We have only observed orange seeping goo twice in the twenty plus years we've lived here. Once in 2004 and now. In 2004 and coinciding with the massive release of natural gas from the Schwartz well, there appeared small distributed areas on our property which bore similar characteristics to the orange seep and biofilm gunk - though these were not as prevalent and they disappeared soon after the Schwartz well was remediated. This suggests that the seep in 2004 manifest itself on our property and was successfully remediated but, it was never acknowledged by the COGCC.
Relative to the new orange seep discovery on June 28th, we have never observed any isolated seepage like this before on our property to this incredible magnitude - and again, the COGCC seems reluctant to take our concerns seriously.
I have provided on-line photographs so that you can compare for yourself the June 28th seep discovery to the identically-appearing phenomenon which occurred on Mr. Langegger’s property in 2004.
3) After the Schwartz well was remediated, Mr. Langegger’s springs also returned to normal.
4) Though the COGCC cries foul that we raise concerns over bubbling in the beaver pond, we’ve never had bubbling in our ponds until the seep in 2004 where it occurred in the original beaver pond.
5) Though it was deemed biogentic – and may well have been – it, too, disappeared after the Schwartz well was remediated. Again, evidence that the seep manifest itself on our property, but was not acknowledged by the COGCC. Again, we were seen to have been overreacting to what was quickly and I believe inappropriately deemed by the COGCC to be events naturally occurring within the beaver pond environment.
7) The Schwartz site was re-entered a year ago – which is when we began to see bubbling in the ponds again.
8) The bubbling continued to increase resulting in a continuous 8 minute expression of gas (which is when we ran out of film for our camera) – then established vent holes, then biofilm, and now, finally – almost a year later - this extreme proliferation of orange substance and what probably is microbial matter.
9) So, the obvious question is: What is its source? Why is it no where else when the environment on our property is consistently similar?
10) Although there is no Pepsi-can-like fizzing in the creek…. although no one is lighting a match to a funnel and creating a foot-tall flame, I would hope that folks realize that while such a proliferation of algae - black, red, white, black or yellow - may be common in other areas of the country – in other environments, it is not common here, and has occurred only one other time in association with a faulty well – and disappeared when the well was correctly cemented.
As landowners without investigative resources, all we can do is judge based on our observations. We live with this land and know its nuances intimately. We've lived through seasons of abundant rain and drought, through high runoff and low - prolonged and rapid. We've lived with new beaver ponds and old, nearly still waters and vigorous stream flows. We've seen temperatures run the gamut from thirty-two below zero to a hundred and five degrees. We've seen wildlife of all types an observed their migratory and other habits. We can only attest to our astute observations over all of these years, and certainly we've no reason to lie. We only want to know what is occurring in association with renewed drilling that coincides with the appearance of seeping matter similar to what we saw in 2004 that was the result of an improperly cemented well. And we know that truth can only be determined by facts on our part and diligent, inclusive and deductive reasoning on the part of the COGCC.
So - as suggested by a friend last night - I ask COGCC.... if the orange goo is algae or microbial in nature,
1) What exactly are the orange
and black substances?
COGCC Inspector and Environmental Protection Specialist visit the site
Monday mid-morning - COGCC field inspector showed up with a neighbor who also wanted to see the seep. This neighbor experienced the full-effect of the 2004 seep and, like me, expressed concern as to what he might be seeing. We discussed the issue and I shared with the inspector a few of my thoughts on the previous investigation, and summarized the circumstances of our bubbling beaver pond from 2004 as well as this event which began in July of 2007. He felt concerned enough to recommend sampling from the COGCC environmental team.
Monday afternoon - The environmental specialist showed up and collected samples of what we assume to be water. His initial field assessment suggested that the orange goo is bacterial in nature, and he demonstrated with a stick how the stuff breaks up when disturbed. He also advanced a hypothesis as to what might have caused the situation, if in fact, the samples show that substance to be biologic in nature.
One possibility suggested by COGCC environmental specialist...
He suggested that during high water runoff situations, organic matter is scoured from the streambed, also pointing out that streambeds can move. He said that once high water subsides, the organic matter settles where it is and if there is a collection of water left behind which is essentially stagnant, then, in the presence of sunlight and other favorable conditions, microbial growth can proliferate.
I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on possible explanations, and I accepted his theory as a general one, but then noted variables associated with this situation he had not seemed to account for.
1) Our small 60 acre property can be considered a micro-environment (particularly the linear stretch of creek which bisects it). This micro-environment shares similar characteristics of humidity, sunlight, temperature, flora, fauna, and, along the creek, even general elevation excepting a slight anticline causing the water to flow downhill. One could even expect the organic matter from run off to be distributed in a relatively consistent manner along the creek on our property. Why then, is this seep only present in this one area approximately 60' long?
2) The generally ponded area where he sampled may act like a conversion tank allowing biological matter to proliferate, but it is not stagnant. It is being fed by a spring. The transfer of fluid from this depression area is slow, but steady. I showed him another spring (photo below) and demonstrated where the goo had collected around free flowing water coming from underground. So why is there microbial growth here to such a degree - when the water is anything but stagnant?
3) I then demonstrated the debris flow from run off which had collected some sixty or seventy yards from the orange seep site and the black seep site. The debris floats on a pool of water which is trapped in a sandbar depression. It appeared more stagnant than any of the orange seep site areas, yet - the water only showed some green algae along its edges despite hosting a rich diversity of micro and macro organic matter. So where is the orange goo here?
He said he didn't know. It was only a theory. And as far as I am concerned, it was a good theory - and I appreciated his offer to advance it. But it was quite general and when held against comparables which should have produced similar findings, the actual observations were inconsistent.
Spring near rock seeping from bank [06-30-08]
In this photo, you can see here where a small spring is seeping under a rock on the bank. Here, what I assume to be water, is flowing out at a quick enough pace that bacteria (if that's what the orange stuff is) can only accumulate on the peripherals. So, since this source of water hasn't yet flowed into the pool and therefore hasn't had much of an opportunity to be digested by the bacteria and potentially converted, maybe this would have been a good place to sample. Perhaps it would provide a purer source of, again what I assume is water, coming directly from underground - and therefore, perhaps it would also provide a purer source of whatever else may be present in the water that is attracting the bacteria to such an intense degree. I pondered this after the sampling on Monday, and called the COGCC enviro guy Wednesday morning to see if he'd like to revisit the area and take a look at this tiny spring to sample.
Allow me to digress.... on Monday afternoon I got back up to the house and opened a letter from the COGCC. Here is what it said....
A letter from COGCC....
"As you know since 2004, the COGCC staff has responded to your concerns about potential gas seepage along West Divide Creek on your property and to date we have not found any indication that the seepage you have observed is related to oil and gas activity. Last year both EnCana and COGCC investigated a similar allegation and samples were collected in November and December 2007. In 2004, I personally collected gas samples from your beaver ponds and at other locations of concern to you. Since 2004, samples have been collected at 9 different locations. These samples have been collected by COGCC staff and 3rd party consultants on behalf of EnCana. These samples have been analyzed for a variety of parameters including natural gas compounds (methane, ethane, propane, butane, pentane, hexanes), heavier hydrocarbon compounds including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes (BTEX), stable isotopes of methane, bacteria (iron related, sulfate reducing, and slime), major anions and cations, and other field and laboratory tests. To date, BTEX compounds have not been detected in any of the samples. Although methane has been detected, stable isotope analysis indicates that it is biogenic not thermogenic and the heavier natural gas compounds (propane, butane, pentane, hexanes) that are part of the gas produced by the wells in your area have not been detected. Some of the samples have been tested using biological activity and reaction test (BART) techniques. BART analyses detect the presence of iron related, sulfate reducing, and slime bacteria. Large quantities of these bacteria were detected in the samples tested. These naturally occurring nuisance bacteria produce iridescent sheens on stagnant water, iron hydroxide (orange/rust colored) stained slime, black slime, and red, orange, and/or black particles. In 2004, during my inspections along West Divide Creek I observed this kind of biological activity at numerous locations and I believe that I pointed out occurrences to you at a couple of locations on your property.
From the photographs you have provided us, it appears that what you are observing are deposits related to biological activity of these nuisance bacteria. Nonetheless Chris Canfield (COGCC EPS II) is on his way out to your property to inspect and collect samples for chemical analysis. In addition, earlier today Gary Helgeland (COGCC field inspector) inspected what you are interpreting as new seeps along West Divide Creek.
It is unfortunate that for a variety of reasons you were not able to contact the COGCC this weekend; however, I am disappointed that you did not allow the COGCC time to investigate your allegation before you contacted the press and the EPA.
As always COGCC will provide all of the analytical results to you. Please call me if you have any questions or if you would like to discuss this matter further.
It was a good summary of tests to date, and I appreciate this person's attention to specifics. This is my reply:
"As you know, no bubbling in our beaver pond occurred prior to the Schwartz well event in 2004. As you know, or perhaps you don’t know because of a failure to follow-up, the bubbling ceased after the Schwartz well was remediated. As you perhaps know, the bubbling in Divide Creek was initially discovered on Mr. Thompson’s and our property, yet – was never, to our knowledge, tested nor was it ever the focus of remediation. As you may or may not know, because of a failure to follow-up that, the bubbling in the creek on those properties also subsided after remediation of the Schwartz well. As you know, that location is just upstream from our water well. As you also may know, just prior to the Schwartz incident in 2004 the Arbaney well site experienced significant problems, causing a sub-surface disturbance that extended approximately a mile onto our property – so much of a disturbance that one neighbor’s home was knocked off its foundation and another neighbor noted a subsequent difference in the height of a hillock that runs parallel between the Arbaney well site and our home. As you may know, the Arbaney well site experienced seeps around this same time. As you also may know, none of these events were even considered correlative which may explain your evident difficulty in recognizing the potential or actual extent of the real and potentially far-reaching impacts associated with the Schwartz and perhaps Arbaney events.
You’re right, I do know, yet appreciate your reminding me of the COGCC’ sampling efforts on our behalf. I do hope, however, you understand that this situation appears to be dynamic. I would certainly hope that you don’t consider the COGCC’s most recent effort, when the creek was frozen, to be sufficient in rendering a conclusion when these circumstances have never been seen before on our property to this dramatic of a degree, and only once, slightly so, during the 2004 seep event.
The following may help explain our perspective on this issue.
1) This seep is a seep. Substances are seeping from the banks on the creek.
2) This has never happened before other than the event in 2004 where I have provided on-line comparable photographs to show this identical-appearing phenomenon on Mr. Langegger’s property.
3) After the Schwartz well was remediated, Mr. Langegger’s spring cleared up.
4) We’ve never had bubbling in our pond until the seep in 2004.
5) Though it was deemed biogentic – and may well have been – it, too, disappeared after the Schwartz well was remediated.
6) Yet – our pond was never considered an aspect of the 2004 event. Again, we were seen to have been overreacting to what was quickly and I believe inappropriately deemed by your agency to be events naturally occurring within the beaver pond environment.
7) The Schwartz site was re-entered a year ago – which is when we began to see bubbling in the ponds again.
8) The bubbling continued to increase resulting in a continuous 8 minute expression of gas (which is when we ran out of film for our camera) – then established vent holes, then biofilm, and now, finally – almost a year later - this extreme proliferation of what probably is microbial matter.
9) But, what is its source? Why is it no where else when the environment on our property is consistently similar?
10) Although there is no Pepsi-can-like fizzing in the creek…. although no one is lighting a match to a funnel and creating a foot-tall flame, I would hope that you, at least, might realize, that while such a proliferation of algae - black, red, white, black or yellow - may be common in other areas of the country – in other environments, it is NOT common here, and has occurred only once in association with a faulty well – and disappeared when the well was correctly cemented.
I am disheartened that such an event can occur and no one acknowledges the negative impact or alteration in the environment and therefore attempts to account for a possible cause, beyond initial parameters of identification of gas – which as you surely know is complex. It seems to be generally regarded as simply a change, whether or not a degradation, and everyone moves on. We believe that when EnCana suggests that this area or region is riddled with seeps that have existed for thousands of years, it is a mischaracterization used to misdirect attention and defer accountability while continuing to bring change to a fragile environment which, because of it highly vertically faulted nature, should probably not be drilled until a way can be found to do so without affecting the environment as they have and continue to do.
I can appreciate the fact that the COGCC is understaffed and tight-budgeted. What I cannot appreciate is detecting major changes in an environment that has remained consistently whole and healthy with the exception of introduced and affecting industrial activities. Nor can I appreciate a failure to fully account for hydro and geological implications related to those activities.
If you would like to observe ponded areas on our property rich with micro-and macro organic matter both in a decaying state as well as burgeoning with life, I would be happy to take you on a tour, so that you can see for yourself that this situation is indeed anomalous.
Perhaps, given the explanation above you can better appreciate my sense of “urgency” given this situation appears to have been progressing for nearly a year, and finally culminated in truly alarming concern.
Thank you, however, for your thoughtful reply, Lisa Bracken"
Crackpots and Environmental Queues
On Tuesday evening the same friend who suggested some of the seven questions above to ask the COGCC expressed serious concern about the seep in light of the recent spill and water contamination near Parachute. He said the man who consumed benzene could have just as easily been seen as a crackpot had the benzene levels been just beneath the state's Water Quality Control Commission standards deemed safe for human consumption. In the case of the newly discovered seep, he worries that arbitrary thresholds could make what would otherwise be a concerning situation seem benign. I am not a crackpot, though I don’t mind looking like one. Looks are superficial. People will see what they wish to see - either way. I am willing to put my reputation on the line because I know the seep is not normal. The truth is the truth, and all I can do is report what I see together with a diligent presentation of the parameters which illicit my concern. But, we’ll have to wait and see what and how the science is presented. How the COGCC takes its queue. What the COGCC deems worthy of consideration. This is where truth and supposition can divide. Then, only time will be left to tell the tale.
The response so far by the COGCC - (I am speaking about the letter sent by an environmental supervisor - not the inspector or the specialist's reactions), demonstrates the same level of reluctance to examine the broader scope of circumstances and initiate serious scientific inquiry into cause and effect. Back in 2004, wave upon wave of denial washed upon us and it was that level of reluctance that made everything so difficult. Had there been better cooperation in the beginning and a genuine good faith effort to determine cause and effect - both by the COGCC and EnCana who was found to have caused the seep - everyone could have gotten on with the important work of remediation. As it is, still today, Cordilleran Compliance Services who is contracted by EnCana to remediate the seep on Langegger's property, is fussing around with the mother vent and still does not know to what degree seasonal changes like temperature and water flow affect the seep - though they know it does produce an effect.
This situation is complex and the reason for that, we believe, is because of the way the seep in 2004 was handled by the COGCC. There seemed to be a concerted effort to minimize acknowledgement of the broader scope of impacts from that event on adjacent lands. Of course, any study or investigation can be contained within any scope depending upon which variables are considered. We feel that not only were certain physical characteristics ignored, but also that certain potentially correlative and mitigating aspects of the event were compartmentalized and minimized in that way also. For instance, a kick to the Arbaney well only weeks before the Schwartz event (according to a neighbor) lowered an entire hillock and (more well-known) knocked a neighbor’s home off its foundation. The same ground disturbance nearly knocked my mother to her knees – and she was around a mile away. Yet, this event was not considered in the investigation – in fact, when I mentioned it to COGCC, there was denial it ever happened, despite there being a report to the contrary. (The photo on the homepage depicts that event). Also, despite their being an estimated 115 million cubic feet of gas released during that event only a single 24-hour air monitoring event was conducted. An aquatic life study was commissioned by EnCana the results of which were looked forward to by the COGCC – yet that study was never released. These are the things that make it complex, and a seeming reluctance on the part of an investigating body to conduct proper scientific inquiry only complicates and makes more difficult an already challenging situation.
Our Argument in a nutshell.... Revealing Documents from the 2004 Divide Creek Seep
I got a call tonight from another friend in industry who asked me about documents related to the 2004 seep. They were specifically asking about the Order issued by the COGCC relative to the Schwartz site. I found it and all the other documents relative to the hearing on the COGCC website and perused the Order (which is the COGCC equivalent of a judge banging a gavel and issuing punishment - with an operator's 'permission' of course).
I found a few paragraphs especially relevant to my friend's inquiry so directed him to the site. While there I also came across an exhibit from the hearing which I think strongly supports the point that we've argued all along regarding the Arbaney kick which occurred March 09, 2004 - weeks prior to detecting the seep in 2004. The 2004 seep was found by the COGCC to have been caused by an improperly cemented Schartz well which EnCana then fraced anyway. (see photo on the homepage and Backstory). We strongly suspect that these events may have been related in ways not yet acknowledged and which, when combined, with renewed drilling on the Schwartz site, could account for what we are seeing now. If it turns out to be slime forming bacteria, again, I ask the COGCC to give us the benefit of the doubt that this kind of activity is not "normal" on our property, answer the seven questions above and examine more closely other events that may be related. Maybe then we can all have real answers with which to make better decisions.
The exhibit presented in the hearing shows area faulting, briefly describes norms of gas extraction and predicts the flow of pressurized fluids. This is particularly interesting to us since we have been historically viewed by the COGCC as 'Chicken Little's'.
This exhibit portrays the very real geologic framework vulnerable to drilling activities in this area - particularly those which create explosions of energy (as in the Arbaney kick) and those which result from improper actions (as in the Schwartz).
We don't know who presented this exhibit.
2008 Divide Creek Seep
Other Relevant Links
Divide Creek Seep 2004 [115 million cubic feet of natural gas blows out during an EnCana frack job and causes benzene to contaminate the groundwater of West Divide Creek]
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
All contents of this site, unless
otherwise noted are copyrighted by Lisa Bracken, 2007-2012 (or present). All rights are