2008 Divide Creek Seep
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Seep 2008 Update
Still going strong
I checked out the seep yesterday morning [July 22,2008] and observed all of the known areas of the orange seep. All areas are still possessed of the orange slime.
I did not note any crawdads - alive or dead in the ponded areas which the main part of the creek was gently flowing through.
Great habitat conditions - if it is safe
This neat little rock-rimmed area is perfect crawdad and frog habitat. The
waters are a little warmer and not too rugged for footholds. A soft grassy
bank wet with shallow flowing water separates the main stream from the pools
- it's awesome. If I was a frog, man I'd be right there. Which of course has
me very worried. Not that I think like a frog, but that frogs are hanging
out where this stuff is seeping.
In the seep in 2004, a frog leapt right into the fizzing waters of the creek where natural gas and all its associated toxic compounds were blowing through in profusion. There was nothing I could do to help that frog, to warn it, to grab it and carry it somewhere safe. It made me sick. And I know that's why I resisted the message of the frog that placed itself before me last week. It aches to acknowledge the unique needs of these amazing creatures and be powerless to provide it for them - or even preserve what once was.
Similar area upstream (noted on map below as "Upstream normal ponded area") - very different characteristics
Dying trees behind seep area
I walked up the cliff behind the seep area and noted a long stretch of dead and dying cedars, as well as a pine. Cedars are drought tolerant trees, and the new presence of what seems to be a spring may be saturating the ground to the point that the cedars are drowning. If the spring - which appears to be feeding the seep - is related to natural gas activities, compounds may be present in the fluids which may also pose a threat to the trees' health. Without the benefit of ground water sampling, it is hard to tell what is causing the die-off, but the presence of those which have died and the appearance of those in the process of dying was pretty startling and deeply depressing.
This week we noted what appears to have been the same kind of gunky black stuff flowing from a large boulder on Mr. Langegger's property - maybe twenty or thirty feet from the area where we first noted the black seep on our property. This eroded flow area is now drier, but has left the same kind of black burnt-looking residue on the soil surface and suggests that the area of possible contamination (at least organics in the soil) may be larger than first expected. Following are all pictures from the area near Langegger's boulder.
I understand how difficult it can be trying to get one's head around a lot of abstract physical reference points, so I thought this map might be helpful in getting a handle on all the features of this situation in context and approximate scale. If you were to stand on the left of the map (west) and face right (east), you would see the area as the photo below depicts.
Of note: I will try to get at least an area measurement later, to provide a better idea of scale....
Of further note: Currently, four new Juniper Group wells are being pursued (two of which involve our lease and potential royalties. In other words, one could assume our interference with their production would only harm us financially. But, again, our concern is for the environment which we suspect is being seriously degraded as a result of nearby drilling activities. More stringent stipulations may help the situation - it may not. The Juniper Group pad is around 1,000 feet to the North West of this site. One of the well downhole locations is projected to be only around 500 or 600 feet West of this seep area along the base of the cliff. You can get a better sense of well proximities by clicking here: Map of Drilling Area
As you stand here looking east, the cliff is on your left, and that big white boulder up ahead to the left in the photo - that is the same big brown dot (boulder) with what we think is black seep stuff on the far right in the map (on Langegger's property).... [06-28-08]
|The map immediately below depicts the valley from the newly
discovered 2008 seep (top of picture) to the 2004 (ongoing) "main seep" area
on Langegger's property (bottom of picture - and all relevant points in
between. Of course, these maps are not to scale and show only approximate
and relative locations. Hopefully, though, they help you get a handle on
proximities and event relativity.
COGCC staff e-mailed me the results of the seep sampling on Tuesday night, but it took awhile to obtain permission to speak to the lab about the results. Once that was secured, I was able to understand what data represented controls and what data was relative to our samples.
From my discussion with the lab I learned that essentially the water from the orange gunk was tested for BTEX (benzene, ethyl benzene, toluene and zylene) and there were none detected.
According to the COGCC, their staff has analyzed the orange “gunk” but I have not been provided those results – though I have a call in.
The results of the BTEX analysis are not surprising given what we believe are the same environmental symptoms currently seen on Langegger’s property, and there are no surface BTEX hits there either – however, in a ground water monitor nearby there have been. These reports are apparently available on the COGCC website, though I've not yet looked for them.
The soil from the black seep was also tested. This soil was tested only for “Diesel Range Organics ["DRO”] – and these oil-related hydrocarbon compounds were detected. The detectable level is 5.6 mg/kg, and the results were 9.9 mg/kg.
Whoever ordered the analysis had to have made certain preliminary conclusions in order to request what to test for. Given that the test was for Diesel Range Organics (oil-related hydrocarbons), I am disappointed that neither the water nor the gas associated with this aspect of the seep was tested for BTEX.
In other states, this is considered a serious concern and BTEX testing for soil and ground water is a matter of course. Further, if any levels of Diesel Range Organics are noted in soils - particularly where inhalation of vapors may have occurred (remember me hanging over the damned thing sucking it up while I filmed it belching away?) naphthalenes are also tested for. Ditto in the ground water. None of that, however and to my knowledge, was tested by the COGCC. A DOW employee was also exposed to those potential vapors as were two COGCC staffers, a neighbor and other family members.
In fact, this was the extent of their response to us that accompanied the sampling results:
"Here are the analytical results from the 7/3/08 sampling conducted by [name removed]. There are no contamination concerns from the sample results. The COGCC is continuing to evaluate your concerns regarding West Divide Creek."
When you consider that there appears to be a new underground upwelling feeding these seeps, and the symptoms of it (orange gunk on the banks) are familiar to events in 2004, and diesel hydrocarbons – a component of oil - were found in the soil – the source of which could be from heavy equipment or even drilling fluids, I think an abundance of caution is called for and further investigation should occur immediately.
In discussing the circulation of drilling fluids during the drilling process, a tutorial on naturalgas.org notes the following under the header "Circulating Systems": “Typically, liquid drilling fluids are used. The most common liquid drilling fluid, known as 'mud', may contain clay, chemicals, weighting materials, water, oil, or gases.” The link to that quote follows.
Oil-related hydrocarbons - or Diesel Range Organics were detected in the soil sample - significantly above detectable limits. These types of things are normally associated with oil spills, refined petroleum products or even home heating oil. Further, due to their oily nature, Diesel Range Organics tend to separate from water and adhere to soil structures leaving the water to hold onto associated BTEX, like benzene. So, the finding of these organics in the soil should provide a significant clue as to what may be in the ground water. Given the circumstances that surround its detection, we are highly suspicious of its origin and apparent introduction into the environment.
If, as we suspect, this seep is the result of nearby drilling activities which were occurring at the time we first began to notice bubbling in the creek (or perhaps occurred some time previous), and if these oil/hydrocarbon components can be found in drilling fluids, and if - as the results suggest - these same or similar oil-related hydrocarbons were found in the soil sample tested that was associated with the seep, we are left deeply concerned for the health of the environment. And of course, we want the COGCC to act responsibly and properly investigate.
Plus, this also raises a serious question about injection wells – and pit waste fluids that may have been injected.
We know some of the characteristics of some of the surface – but what is underground? We have no idea.
What flowed across or from beneath the sandstone boulders and caused it to deteriorate? This substance also has yet to be sampled.
On Langegger’s place near the “main seep” we know BTEX have been present underground – and are still being treated with sparging equipment. But here, we have no idea, and our water well draws water from this shallow aquifer. The aquifer charges the creek and the whole thing flows downstream to the Colorado River and on to Silt and Rifle.
For a year, we have had to encourage inch by painful inch, the COGCC toward an investigation of this area despite conditions worsening which have finally culminated in the revelation that Diesel Range Organics are present in the surface soil. And yet, still, they continue to "evaluate" our concerns. With no COGCC-initiated communication and no active interest when we raise concerns - I'm not sure that is being accomplished.
One cannot and should not draw conclusions from a single data point or observation. Here - we have a suite of observations and finally a little sampling which should under reasonable circumstances lead to deeper inquiry in order to rule-out the extent of potential contamination, not disregard and minimize that possibility by failing to inquire where it is clearly suspected at least by us - only because we've see it before, and it is still occurring on Langegger's property.
I think these results, coupled with obvious surface observations, should compel a responsible regulatory body to thoroughly investigate. In other states, that is exactly what happens. The industry says that Colorado rules are currently some of the most conducive to profitable operations. If this is the case -and I am beginning to see that it is - no wonder industry is lobbying so hard for better rules - like the disclosure of chemicals. In other states, regulatory environmental officials would be looking into what is present on the surface and underground - but here, there appears to be less a pursuit of truth and far more the preservation of carefully structured ignorance.
In the least, a ground water monitor (a ten or fifteen foot hole in the ground about as big around as a coffee cup) should be installed behind this seep and sampled. This is a significant area that is impacted – probably 30-40 yards square and the sampling results collected from a seep indicate a subsurface source - significant enough to remain present in shallow surface soils.
Despite the still active seep which began in 2004, the COGCC (lobbied by EnCana) lifted the moratorium on drilling in this area. (We happen to live at one of the shallowest points in the gas bearing formation - so we are the low-hanging fruit. The gas beneath our home is cheapest to reach for, so the profits are presumably higher). In lifting that moratorium, the COGCC instituted a set of drilling stipulations which presumed to prevent such an environmental catastrophe from happening again. But it was a crap shoot. A guessing game. An experiment and everyone knew it What we are observing, we believe, are the effects of an experimental framework insufficient to safeguard public safety, the environment and specifically, the public waters of Divide Creek.
If drilling is to occur here, the COGCC and EnCana have a public responsibility to ensure it is done safely. If it cannot be done safely, then it must not occur at all - because the cost to families, our home and the environment is too great to bear. People worry about ANWR. I worry about ANWR. Look what is happening here, right under our noses. Clearly, these issues point to the potential need to bolster the stipulations - though we do not want to endure another failed experiment. This geology should be a model - what is happening here, along this canyon outcrop - should be a model for similar areas, in order to avoid destroying them.
We are certain what we are observing is a
seep, but we are deeply concerned and disappointed that the COGCC appears
reluctant to uncover its source.
Entry - 07-25-08
For The Record.... Our Position on Drilling
Since some folks in the media are striving to gather more information around the decidedly complex history of the ongoing 2004 seep and the discovery of a new one, I added a special page to help them get a handle on the information contained in this site. On the media page, I preface suggested resources with our position on drilling. It seems appropriate to include it here - just in case anyone is wondering....
We are neither Democrats nor Republicans. We are registered Independent voters.
We are both landowners and mineral interest owners, with a lease which allows EnCana to pursue our minerals. That lease provides for royalties and prevents EnCana from occupying the surface of our land.
In the colloquial of my native Oklahoma, I am half shit-kicker and half tree-hugger.
We are not against drilling in and of itself - but we are anti-stupidity and anti-greed which can drive corporations to cut corners and pursue a needed national resource at the wholly unnecessary and devastating expense of the nation's citizens and environment.
Until such time as America can free itself of foreign energy dependence and develop sustainable renewable resources - of which we are in great favor - we must develop domestic reserves of fossil fuels. We hope the vision of our leaders will take us in the direction of sensible energy consumption as we, ourselves, practice diligent conservation of our Earth's precious resources of air, water, soil, flora and wildlife.
We cherish biodiversity and strive every day of our lives to protect and provide for this extraordinary land we are so blessed to call our home.
Our on-going struggle to co-exist with industry revolves around differing values, objectives and identities. While we support the economic growth this industry brings to the community and our neighbors who comprise it, we do not support the wholesale destruction of public health and the environment in the course of such development. We support responsible development. We do not support exploitation. We continually encourage responsible development, we continually experience the cost of exploitation.
It is a source of inspiration and encouragement that many outdoor enthusiasts, environmentalists, ranchers, and regular landowners who live with or experience the harsh realities of this industry tend to support our position.
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, 2007-2010 (or present). All rights are