2008 Divide Creek Seep
Okay, we're getting pretty concerned at this point. Really concerned. We're about twenty to thirty percent away from full-on freaked out.
When DOW came down to do a fish count, I had an opportunity to check out the seep again and nose around the area in general.
I will reiterate here, what I hypothesized on Page 2 and recently elaborated on.
I strongly suspect the Arbaney kick set the stage for all this crap that's followed. I think the improperly cemented and fraced Schwartz well made things worse and caused the seep.
I think re-entering the same offending well [last year - about the same time we started noticing bubbling again in the beaver pond] to shut it down in order to make room for more drilling and later bringing it back online, or perhaps new drilling and fracing from the same pad may have caused this.
Perhaps when the Schwartz was shut in (taken off production), the fraced, force- fractured and naturally faulted zone was re-pressurized. Perhaps this created the leading edge and body of a kind of giant gas bubble underground. Perhaps when the well was brought back into production, the body of gas was cut off and the bulk of the bubble was left to migrate up through the strata - seeking fissures and exit where it may.
Maybe that's why we saw a little gas expressing in the pond last year. And maybe that's why we saw what appeared to be a gradual increase in expression, culminating in vent holes, biofilm and now this. Maybe this is a big gas burp caused by shutting in the Schwartz.
But, if it is - how long will it eek into the environment? It's been almost a year to get to this point. What is left? How long was the well shut in? How long will the raw gas take to get out? How much worse will it get? What is coming out of the ground? Even after most of the pressure is gone, to what lesser degree will it continue? Is subsequent drilling and fracing making things worse?
When I say making things worse, I am referring to our most recent observations noted below....
Entry - 07-10-08 and
DOW team sweeps the creek....
When a Cordilleran representative takes unexpected note of the presence of Division of Wildlife conducting a fish population count, on his way to a de-silting operation over on Langegger's, he advises me with a grin that iron is present in volcanic rock and there is volcanic rock on the creek bank. This was odd. I hadn't mentioned anything about the seep area, but I guess he was somehow aware of it, and perhaps this was a nod toward an explanation of the orange gunk. While I noted to him that I was unaware volcanic rock was ferrous, I advised him - in case he missed it - that volcanic rock is present all along both banks of Divide Creek.
Off we go to check out Langegger's....
Orange gunk seems to be increasing on Langegger's, near springs
More orange gunk is spotted on Langegger's place around springs. It seems to be increasing in its proliferation.
Easterly bank of main seep on Langegger's [07-10-08]
More from the easterly bank of main
seep on Langegger's [07-10-08]
Orange gunk near an eastern spring on Langegger's [07-10-08]
Later, an EnCana environmental representative showed up and took note of the Division of Wildlife folk. We visited a while and he went on over to the main seep area where the Cordilleran representative was still conducting his work.
When I brought the DOW folk over to see the old area of the main seep, the Cordilleran representative expressed some concern (I must presume he was defending Mr. Langegger's interests) about all the people down in the area and wondered if Mr. Langegger knew about it. I must say, I'm not in the habit of trespassing nor inviting an unwelcome horde along with me. Although Mr. Langegger, years ago, gave me an open invitation to observe the seep on his property, whenever possible, I still check with him each time I visit his property. And it was by Mr. Langegger's invitation that I observed what I observed on the 3rd and on the 10th. Interestingly, this is the same representative who conducted a tour with me several weeks ago and informed me of EnCana's remediation system. Today, the information seemed more sketchy and it was tough to get a straight answer, though I asked him to clarify. For instance, I didn't realize there was benzene present in the test well associated with the big methane-killed area of non-vegetation. He directed me to data which is obviously where I will have to go for a straight answer (I do have them - and they are on-line as well - it is just one more hoop to have to jump through). I thought a tour would be sufficient, but the data will have to do the talking. Back during our remediation tour, EnCana was pressing us to sign a lease. Now, it's a different story. I don't know that he was intentionally evasive - some folks just communicate that way, and maybe it was simply my receiver.... but I need straight answers and I don't have the luxury of talking around this issue.
Off we go back North, onto our place....
New wetland area above and behind orange seep
Something else of note - the area behind the orange seep (maybe 10 feet or so above Divide Creek and nestled against the cliff), is wet in many areas. So much so that the vegetation is marsh-like. This area has never been wet before - not in the twenty years we've lived here. Some of this moisture may be leaching down and east into the black seep area as well as the orange seep area just below it to the south. This photo shows a particularly wet area seeping out under this rock.
Another gunky area across the creek
I found another seep area on the south bank - just one, a medium sized one but it is located just across from where I filmed the eight-minute expression which I think is interesting. Overall it is in proximity to the main orange gunky and black-seeping area.
3 +/- minute filming of black seep area causes nausea
I filmed the black seep for a few minutes and about lost my lunch. I felt a little loopy and big-time sick to my stomach. I took it easy creek-side for a while and recovered about 30% through some deep breathing. After about three hours I felt pretty normal. I'm not into hanging around potentially toxic crap, but you know how a part of you says.... 'you need to make sure...' so, I went back and observed the seep some more. I probably will again since each time I learn something new, but I'll be as careful as possible. Given the COGCC's reluctance to really look at this phenomenon, I feel like I have to at least well-document it, even if that means getting personal with it to see if I can learn more about it. The video link below shows the active vent puking up and recirculation stuff from underground. It is terrible quality, but every time I pinch off the HI-8 onto a memory stick this happens - even though it's on a "fine" setting. Very frustrating, but maybe you can see a little of what it looks like.
This is a still photo of the puky black seep from 07-10-08.
At least it can give you an idea of what you'll be looking at in the video.
Entry 07-11-08.... a few new things....
Black seep area is wetter with new seemingly corrosive substances
The area of the black seep is wetter, where all along, the vent shave availed themselves along a linear depression. But, now, there is this white stuff associated with it - like a crusty salt. In one area, the white stuff appears more opaque almost milky and behind a boulder it appears to have dried where it seemed to have been flowing. This white salty looking stuff often appears with orange crusty stuff and what looks like black burned areas on the sand. Interestingly, the white stuff is on some of the sandstone boulders near this black seep area, and where it is in contact with the sandstone, it appears to be decomposing the stone. The effect makes this white stuff appear corrosive. I've put pictures up on a new page (page 3) "Divide Creek Seep 2008 three".
These sandstone boulders rest against the cliff's North face. Just in front of them is a depression where the black seeps are occurring. A substance seems to be attacking and corroding some of the sandstones. [07-11-08]
This is the depression where the black seep vents are located [07-10-08]
Here is a normal-looking sandstone boulder (upper right) next to one that is undergoing deterioration and is covered to a great extent by this white substance. [07-11-08]
This heavily corroded sandstone boulder is seriously deteriorating. [07-11-08]
This white stuff is a crust on on the soil. You can see in the diagonal middle ground where it appears thicker and more opaque than other areas and it seems to have been flowing across the ground in rivulets - now dried. [07-11-08]
Some of the substance is orangish and even burnt-looking. Here is some of it surrounding plants. [07-11-08]
Another area where there seems to be a wild mix of liquids running on the ground. The crust is dried, but the soil beneath is still quite moist. Weird. [07-11-08
Some of the white with black and orange encrusted on the damp soil. [07-11-08]
More of it across a larger area. These areas transition in day-long periods between quite wet and almost dry. [07-11-08]
This is a bit of the crusty stuff atop one of the rocks in the ponded areas where the orange was flourishing before recently being washed out. [07-11-08]
Another dead crawdad just down from intense orange seeping area. This photo was taken during DOW's fish count. [07-10-08]
Having grown weary of picking cheat grass seed out of my socks, I resorted to flip flops (not advisable footgear for the boonies). I stepped to the north of the black seep and the ground squished eight or so inches in and sucked my flipper off. It also exposed my foot to the gassiness that off-vented as a result of the sudden depression, and of course the moist mud. The under side arch of my foot which was exposed only a second or so to the soil burned for a few seconds after withdrawing it. I didn't wash it off right away since I was busy retrieving my flipper - but I did so later in the creek. The burn, went away on its own. Seems like this is some pretty nasty stuff whatever it is.
Foam or soapy-looking substance
Something else. I noticed some foamy stuff collecting in a couple of places along the bank and thought about the fact that industry uses surfactants or soap in their fracing operations, but I quickly disregarded this as a possible contributor because we've seen foamy stuff in the creek before - a LOT of it briefly in 2004 after the seep began. But, still, sometimes foam collects in eddies and stuff. I didn't think much more about it. But, then I noticed it again this evening - it hadn't moved from the same spot where it was yesterday, though it was just off of the main current in the creek. I got down to take a closer look and was shocked to see thick nasty orange gunk glommed onto the bank just above the foam on an overhang of bank. This isn't some stagnant pond. This is an area adjacent to the main current of the creek. Interesting.
Under the bank of the orange seep area we found a lot more glommed on orange gunk. This glop of foam (bottom left) was also present. This area is just off the main current of West Divide Creek. [07-11-08]
Here is the same area zoomed in.... [07-11-08]
This photo shows the biofilm along the creek bank beside the rushing water, fairly close to the same area above. The funky thing bottom right is just the camera cord. [07-11-08]
Geology behind the seep....
This is the cliff behind the seep area. This geology is extremely fragile and the USGS has noted that it is highly faulted with vertical faults. In my opinion, it is too fragile to be drilled with the current operational and production protocol. But, of course, my opinion doesn't matter. EnCana is currently drilling the Juniper Group site just over this ridge and a little left (North) [07-10-08].
Burned-looking leaves and distressed cedars
Later that evening, we observed a kind of broad, light, die-off of vegetation. This year has been moist and not all that hot, so to see the leaves of the oaks appear burnt was unusual - except for the fact that this very thing occurred in 2004. It was and is now the weirdest thing. You expect to see certain things in a forest - bugs eating leaves, fungal growths producing misshapen limbs and whatnot, this is all part of the rhythm of forest life. But this is really weird, and different. And we've only observed it once before in the spring/summer of 2004. The leaves just have these areas of dry deadness - like they've been scorched here and there. Methane suffocates roots and can cause die-off, but maybe this has to do with a bug. However, as in 2004, when we saw vast areas of our meadow die off and linear stretches of pinion - they had been previously healthy and then suddenly died- within a week or so. Just BAM - dead. Then the beetles came. Something in the environment stresses the flora which then makes it susceptible to attack - which is nature's way of recycling and feeding the hordes. Our garden suddenly died also. First it stunted, then it died - all within a week or so. And the cedar are dying from the trunk and limbs outwardly. Interesting.
Scorched-looking oak leaves [07-11-08]
Cedar dying outwardly from branches [07-11-08]
Picture of dying oaks on our property in 2004 [08-15-04] What we are seeing now (above) looks identical to the same pattern of die-off we saw then.
Picture of distressed cedars on our property [08-15-04]. Up until 2004, we had very healthy cedars, however, there was a lot of die-off of inner leaves during the seep. Even though most of that has fallen away - leaving sparse leaves on the branch tips - now those are showing signs of the same kind of distress.
Entry - 07-11-08
"As suggested by a friend, these are the 7 questions I should ask COGCC.... if the orange goo is, in fact, algae or microbial in nature...."
So - I asked
1) What exactly are the orange
and black substances?
On July 10, COGCC sent an e-mail in response to my questions above:
Essentially, COGCC defends their assessment the orange "goo" is microbial (I say, fine - what is causing it). They do not mention the black seep specifically, but note that some microbes are sulfate reducing and produce a "rotten egg" smell. They say they aren't microbiologists but kindly refer me to University of Michigan who has pictures of what we are seeing, and tell us it will be several weeks before their results come in. As usual, it is a 'Chicken Little - shut your beak' kind of thing.
Other than an offer to call and discuss the matter further, COGCC's letter follows:
"As you are aware, on Monday 6/30/08 [name removed] collected several samples from the areas that you expressed concern. Those samples have been delivered to the laboratory and I expect to have some results within the next few weeks. After review of these new samples the COGCC may wish to conduct further sampling at the creek. No additional sampling would be conducted until the previous sample results have been reviewed.
Since 2004 both the COGCC and EnCana have responded to several concerns you have expressed with regards to the section of Divide Creek that crosses your property. Earlier this year (January 10, 2008) I provided you with a letter that summarized the results of sampling that had been conducted in your ponds and Debbie Baldwin also provided you a brief summary of investigation actions conducted on your property in an e-mail (June 30, 2008). There has never been a detection of a seep related contaminant identified in your ponds. With regards to the ongoing West Divide Creek Seep remediation, EnCana has collected and analyzed over 4,500 water samples from 381 separate sample locations and produces quarterly progress reports to the COGCC that continue to show the progressive remediation of the former seep. Although the focus of the remediation sampling is centered around the seep on the Langegger property, EnCana also has collected over 60 water samples from the water well on your creek property. There has never been any detection of any seep related contamination in your water well.
It remains in the COGCC staff’s opinion that the “goo” you have noticed is entirely biological in origin (as is the bacterial “biofilm” [caused by the tube forming bacteria Leptothrix]), and due to natural biological processes similar to the processes that produce the biogenic methane gas that occurs in your ponds. Natural occurring bacteria can produce mats, as well as films, and based on the type of bacteria and dissolved minerals in the water can be found in various colors. Red and orange (rust like) colors usually indicate iron related bacteria; black is most commonly related to sulfate reducing bacteria (as is a “rotten egg” type of odor), and some bacterial mats can be blue, white, and even purple. Because of the physical chemistry of metals dissolved in waters, areas where un-oxygenated water ground water discharges into oxygenated water surface water are a common focus for this type of bacteria activity. I believe that your recent photographs illustrate this natural phenomenon very well. According to most references I have found, these bacteria are generally harmless to both aquatic and terrestrial life and pose no human health threat. The bulk of you questions in your e-mail are on topics that I do not have the scientific background to address. I am not an expert on wetlands microbiology and suggest that you may wish to contact someone at The Colorado Water Institute of Colorado State University (cwrri.colostate.edu). Under the category of “Water Expertise”, they list several researchers (with contact information) that specialize in “Toxicology and Microbiology” and “Stream and Riparian Zone Biology/Wetlands”. I have attached a factsheet regarding biofilms from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and suggest a couple of webpages that have additional information on biofilms.
As always the COGCC will provide you with a copy of all of the analytical results from the June 30, 2008 sampling."
This is my response to the COGCC sent in an e-mail July 13, 2008
Thank you for responding to my seven questions. It’s too bad you are unable to answer them all, but I can appreciate your limited expertise. Thank you also for forwarding me potential University resources.
Thank you for the testing you have conducted on our behalf during our long association.
I would like to point out a few recent observations, the details of which are available here.
There are currently three pages associated with our observations of the seep event first discovered on June 28th. I encourage you to view all three if you have not done so already. Links are provided on each page to the other two pages.
There appears now to be a proliferation of some kind of corrosive-looking white substance that appears to be deteriorating sandstone boulders it comes into contact with. This is in the area of the black seep. Recently I stepped onto a patch of soil near the black seep that gave way due to its spongy, gaseous nature. My foot came into 1 or 2 second contact with the soil and burned for a few seconds thereafter. Do you know what might be present in that soil to cause such a reaction? Also, there is a new wetland-type area behind the seep and along the cliff face on our property. Perhaps a spring has opened up. This area is situated probably 10 feet or so above the creek.
Also, Mr. Langegger has noted the presence of a couple of pools of water in the wetland area behind the seep on his property which are bubbling. There also appears to be a proliferation of orange microbial matter (if that’s what the ‘goo’ is) along other banks and near springs on Mr. Langegger’s property.
I realize that COGCC came out and sampled some of the orange matter and also a mud sample from the black seep. However, the black mud sample lid was left off for several minutes during which time the jar threads were cleaned. Might this affect the volume of gas associated with that sample?
Can you please tell me what exactly the COGCC is testing the collected samples for. Perhaps COGCC is not even sampling for gas.
We strongly believe that the unusual formation of substances – microbial or otherwise may be linked to shutting in the Schwartz well or possibly drilling activities conducted thereafter. We ask that you please look into this possibility.
Although you said no further samples would be taken until the results of those already collected were made available, you also said that such results could take weeks. We are concerned that the characteristics of this seep seem to be not only unpredictably dynamic but increasing in magnitude. We are not suggesting that you come to collect more samples. Although, as I suggested to [name removed], perhaps a collection of fluid closer to the surface exit point of some of the seep areas would yield a more pure sample of whatever substance is feeding the microbial colonies. I am merely wondering if you might find these events correlative enough to compel you to investigate this issue more thoroughly – whatever that may entail… samples, gas identification or otherwise. You are the expert, not me. However, we do believe these events merit your interest and investigation. We also urge an abundance of caution on the part of further drilling.
On July 10th, an EnCana environmental technician expressed some surprise that the COGCC had not tested the gas that ignited from the black seep and has subsequently made me loopy and nauseas – though only temporarily. Is this something you may be interested in pursuing? If so, please contact me and we can arrange for a time where I can show you the location of the seep.
Pictures and details of our new observation can be viewed by clicking the link above.
Please contact me if you have any questions, comments, or can offer any insight.
Regards, Lisa Bracken
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