|Week Forty-One June 30 - July 06|
Left-hand middle ground, Divide Creek meanders through Summerhawk Valley and around the cliff heading North - also the site of new seep activity. [07-01-08]
Entry - 07-01-08
This morning I walked to the cliff at dawn. I sat with my hands touching the stone, as close to the Earth as I could get, and I prayed, asking for guidance.
Yesterday was mayhem. No surprise. At least one person from COGCC is “disappointed” that I talked to the EPA, despite not being able to get in touch with them. They wanted an opportunity to test the seep site first. This person reminded me of how much COGCC has spend sampling the water on our property to date, and generally made me feel like crap for having I guess ‘wasted’ the state’s funds. Which is something I do not wish now, nor ever wished to do. And I’d love it if there were some other way to try and determine what is going on underground. I can see where they would be disappointed, but as I said in a statement responding to their response to my e-mail alerting them to the situation Monday morning: “Perhaps, 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.”
Of course there are several environmental folk who are saying, 'Oh my gosh! Don’t cry wolf, don’t cry wolf – what if it’s only natural?' Well of course it’s natural, everything that isn’t synthesized is natural. The question of course is what is causing it? And then the other half of the environmental community I spoke with want to get to the real bottom of this and once and for all figure out the link between events in 2004 and possible effects of renewed drilling at that old site.
Me, I’m in the middle and fending both doubt and blame in a situation I feel all too familiar with. Don’t think for a second that I like standing around for two hours in 90 degree weather, wearing a creek-soaked rolled-up canvas tote bag on my head to keep my brain from baking while I wait for the COGCC to show up to sample the creek. Or that I enjoy fielding media calls and recounting the facts again and again – as important as they are. Or finding such an ugly sight on our beloved Divide Creek at all. I despise it. But, for whatever reason, here we are. So I have to accept it. And try try try to see the good in it. I may not know what the hell I’m doing, but the ancients do. At least I hope they have a plan, because I sure don’t.
After yesterday, I knew that regardless of what I might be afraid to hear, I needed to visit the cliff overlooking Summerhawk and ask for guidance. At first there was a total chaotic blockade as I went through the usual apologies and tears.
Yesterday I looked at Divide Creek, and the sand bars and lush meadows. I just gazed at the newly formed waterfall and spectacular backdrop and listened to the birds happily singing and flitting about the oak forests at the fringe of the riparian area. And I just felt so awed by the magnificent unspoiled beauty, and I felt so deeply and utterly blessed. I really could not even fathom that we are so fortunate as to call this wondrous place home. So, how can you feel something like that and then feel that you can at all adequately protect it? I don’t know. So, I went through the initial stages of trying to speak my pitiful piece and to hear the larger, more meaningful message in my heart.
I looked down at the peaceful valley ready to awaken and greet the day. Though it was dawn on the cliff, the deep valley was still veiled in the shadows of sleep. I listened to Divide Creek, roiling along its merry course, giving life and bringing abundance – and undeserving of this mar on its bank. At the same time, less than a quarter mile away on the cliff to the left – over on the Juniper Group site, the clanging of pipes and grinding of gears and all the sounds associated with drilling echoed through the valley. It was as if there were two completely juxtaposed competing purposes, entities, energy forms. It brought the rule making process and its surrounding controversy into immediate and stark focus. I didn’t know what to make of it all. I could only absorb it. Absorb the conflict of it.
I gave my deepest thanks for our many blessings this land has given us, then I offered my humble best wishes to the spirit world – to the Great Spirit, to God…. the same. And I tried to hear, but I just couldn’t get past the potent feelings of failing to understand the scope of this situation. It was pathetic. It always is when something like this happens. But, also always, the ancients are ever present and ever patient and simply wait for my heart to open to their message. And it finally did.
I asked: “What do I do?” I said, “I don’t know what to do.” And they said so simply, “Have faith. Be patient.” And I expressed in my heart, the chaotic blend of perspectives from yesterday of all those whose reactions to this situation encompassed feelings of worry, frustration, excitement disappointment, anger, hope and cynicism – from both sides of the issue. My own reaction to their reaction was as mixed. I was saddened, disappointed, frustrated, sickened. And the spirits said, again so simply, “Watch closely. Share what you discover.” They just cut right through all the stuff that messes with my reception and bam, there it is. Always so simple and so clear. And so within me already – I just couldn’t see it.
I could intuit that there was more they could share, but either they didn’t want to reveal anything more just yet, or, I was perhaps blocking my reception of it.
I rose from the cliff and offered, once again, my prayers for their world, I received deeply their gifts of guidance and offered my thanks for their abundant blessings.
I took a sunrise photo of the horizon – Summerhawk - this morning when I came to ask for guidance and was so freely given it. I wanted to share this moment with you.
As I left the cliff, I thought of my friend who is a leader in an important environmental organization. He is very stressed over the rulemaking. I understand that, because I am too. And he is worried how my revelation of the new seep stuff could ‘play’ in the media and be interpreted and spun by industry. Which is silly, because all this is, is the truth, and it really is independent of any agenda from anyone or any organization. It just is what it is – as it develops. But I know first hand what it feels like to be so close when the stakes are so high – I felt similarly only moments before, until I received guidance to have faith, be patient, to watch closely and to share what I discover. I’d like if my friend could disassociate his personal investment in this myopic game that seems to have magnified between industry’s interest and those of folks trying to survive it. I’d like it if he could try to see the more distant future. And have faith in it as I was instructed. I wondered what he might ask if he knew the ancients had said these things to me. I though to myself, he’d probably want to know how the rule making will turn out. I chuckled, and on a lark I stopped and asked the spirits aloud – “Well? What will happen with the new rules?” I revealed my doubt and knew the ancients were grinning and shaking their heads and thinking – gosh, I can hardly recall when I was like that….
But then, they did tell me a little, again – withholding far more than was revealed. But they said, “People will be surprised.” Oh my gosh! What does that mean? Does “people” mean me? Is my egoism in the way here? I am certainly invested as much as my friend. What people?! And they said, “A lot of people will be surprised.” Well, I hope I am among them, because I don’t personally have a lot of faith in any eventual rules. The spirits also said, “There will be those on both sides who are unhappy as well.” Well doesn’t that figure. I guess that’s what government regulations do best. I could have about guessed this much myself. But that ‘surprise’ thing – there is something in there. I suspect for some involved in this process, their hearts are being spoken too, and thank goodness there isn’t much industry can do about that. Whatever happens, I’m a little nervous about being surprised – I mean, generally it felt like a big and light and positive and even kind of last-minute surprise - almost like a collective manifestation, a revelation, but still, I’m nervous….
A lot of good folk have been inspired to share their personal stories about living with this industry. And I know those stories have moved some industry and governmental folks who may have felt permanently entrenched on 'the other side of the fence' so to speak. A lot of regular people are putting their reputations and privacy on the line. These things that are being revealed are being revealed at great personal cost. But there seems to be an almost divine timing to the truths that are finally moving into the light.
But the thing about truth is that it is there regardless of whether it is acknowledged. So, the neat thing about what seems to be happening is that it is finally flowing forth before hearts more willing to see it.
Now, industry lobby folk, if any of you are reading this – just don’t go thinking you have some new juicy insight and go strategizing it. What is happening here is bigger than any of us. And finally, maybe the good folk in this industry…. maybe their hearts are being spoken to also. I’m just sharing what I see. And for these good people who may feel conflicted within and torn between their perceptions of right and wrong, who and what to believe, financial security and political and social influence, I pray for these people to have clear vision in their heart, and to articulate that clarity in their minds for the betterment of all.
In the last 48 hours, in all of my doubt about what all is happening, a friend sent an e-mail this morning that really reminded me that even though sometimes we just cannot seem to make sense of what is around us because it suddenly challenges our perceptions of what we thought we knew – this dog – this totally amazing dog reminds us that sometimes, like the ancients said, all we need to do is just have a little faith. Here is the story of that wonderful dog and the good people who are her friends…. http://www.faiththedog.net/
|Entry - 07-01-08
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, 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). 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 - 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 appears 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]
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.
First the good news - On our Thursday walkabout we came across two happy surprises I can hardly wait to share!
And now for the nasty....
Update on 2004 Seep with Walkabout on Langeggers'
We checked out the span of Divide Creek along our place and, at their invitation, walked the banks of Thompsons' and Langeggers' as well. The remainder of Divide Creek on our property looked good and Thompson's looked good, no goo, no biofilm and no bubbles (though on Thompson's we only checked the area of the old seep site).
On to Langeggers'.
The "main seep" was identified by COGCC to be mainly in Divide Creek and along its South bank where a number of springs exit from a large wetland area above the Creek on Langegger's property.
I checked out the old spring - the one that was orange and had a bunch of biofilm associated with it - it looked good. No weirdness. It cleared up after Schwartz was remediated, and it's good to see that it still looks good. I looked about a hundred and fifty feet upstream to the the spring near the "mother vent" which is still blowing benzene - that spring looked good too. Visually, there was nothing weird. Everything looked normal despite the active vent only feet downstream. However, when I looked between these two main points, when I examined the rocky bank about twenty feet downstream from the mother vent, that area was still oozing grossness - orange gunk and iridescent, greasy-looking pools of biofilm. Just like we're now seeing on our place. Although some monitoring occurs on the South bank area of Divide Creek, there is no remediation there. The only remediation is associated with sparging the North bank and meadow area. So, the system is set up to try to contain and mitigate the nasty as it flows Northward, downstream onto Thompson's, our place and on to the Colorado River where the communities or Silt and Rifle are next in line. There is no remediation taking place in the wetlands, where the springs flow, or where the mother vent blows.
Below, I'll show you photos of the July 3rd walkabout on Langeggers'.
Let's start on the East end of the seep area [the waters in the creek are flowing toward the left]. From here, we'll tour Westward moving 10 or 15 feet Westerly with each new photo. Here is the first Easterly spring, running clear. [07-03-08] Now, let's move West, or to the right, upstream....
|Here is the second spring. Looks good. [07-03-08]|
|Here is the third spring. Also looks good. [07-03-08] Let's keep moving West....||
Here is another set of springs - these also look good. [07-03-08] Let's go a little further West....
|Here is the bank, just upstream from the Eastern springs
that once were orange but now look good. Above this bank is a large wetland
area that extends far back to the South. This bank is still gunky with
orange goo. I'll show you the close up's after I show you the mother vent -
just about twenty more feet to the West.... [07-03-08]
Here's the "Mother Vent" - there are two springs, one on either side that look good. You can see the rocky bank we just looked at on the left of this photo. In fact, the bunch- grass in the middle of the creek [on the bottom left of this photo] is the same grass on the photo to the left. The tip of the grass it is visible [on the bottom right of the photo]. This whole main seep area is only maybe 100 - 150 feet long. [07-03-08]
Correction - you are looking at the monitor well nearest the "Mother Vent". The "Mother Vent" is a few feet upstream. See more on this correction below.
A close up of the springs on either side of the "mother vent". It's interesting how this vent is still releasing contamination, but all around it there is grass and the springs look good. The environmental signatures of such a seep are complex and therefore challenging - all the more reason for intensive and thorough investigation. [07-03-08]
Correction.... after speaking to a Cordilleran representative on 07-10-08 I learned that this is only the monitoring well a few feet downstream of the "mother vent". This well is where the benzene is happening, but the surface vent hasn't apparently had a benzene hit in a few years. This is a little sketchy and I will need to review the written data on this together with a map to figure it out. Also - I hadn't realized it before, but apparently the area across the creek from this site has benzene in that well also. Again, however, I need to review the data to be correct. I cannot seem to get a definitive and clear answer on this conversationally.
|Here's a close up of the rocky South bank above. This is
only one of a bunch of batches of orange glop present. The whole middle bank
is basically covered with it, just as prevalent as at the beginning of the
2004 seep. [07-03-08]
|Another area along bank.... [07-03-08]||
Another.... To see the glop associated with one of Langegger's springs back in 2004, click here and scroll down to "Synopsis", or just keep going down this page. [07-03-08]
This is a wide patch of ground approximately across the creek from the mother vent where probably around 500 square feet of vegetative area is, according to a representative from Cordilleran, impeded and struggling from the methane contamination. Methane chokes out oxygen. [07-03-08]
I learned conversationally - and I need to confirm this with review of data and maps that this area is also releasing benzene. But again, I need to confirm that with a review of the data.
It's probably easier for you if I just show you those 2004 Langegger photos here. This is from the Langegger property then, back in 2004. The springs cleared up after the Schwartz well was remediated, but the goo on the bank remains. I have no idea why this is, but I sure would like to know.... since we're seeing it (and weird black stuff too) on our place now.
|From Langegger's 2004 [05-16-04]||Another from Langegger's 2004 [05-16-04]||
More on Langeggers, 2004 - spring flowing with the orange gunk and lots of biofilm. [05-16-04]
Orange and Black Seep Update on our place....
Okay - now.... about the July 3rd walkabout on our place.... the orange stuff still clings on in all its grotesque glory.... and we are waiting to hear results.
Here it is above in all its loveliness. This photo is of the back-side, since I maneuvered over here to grab a sample of our own. Jelly jar - probably not really scientific, but I put it in the fridge anyway. [07-03-08]
Then, we went off to snatch up a little of the black seep.
After the black gunk all settled out I looked at
it. Ever since the inspector noted that the fluid coming out of the hole
looked clear, and the black stuff appeared to be particulate, I've been
curious. So I held it up and studied it. You know what it looked like? Coal
dust. I wonder if a coal seam has been cracked open and the gas and water
and fine coal dust associated with it is what is coming to the surface?
Here's what I suspect....
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. These are the only things that seem to add up. If this isn't the case and if the COGCC environmental team cannot explain what is going on, then at least maybe they can demonstrate that we are wrong. Although, I won't hold my breath. The environmental supervisor's first response to the 2004 seep was to suggest that everyone move the creek.
Don't ask. Just don't even go there.
If this was caused by renewed drilling, all we want is whoever did it to take responsibility so we can get on with fixing it. This is horrible, and it's a deep swipe at the otherwise healthy ecosystem of our beloved Summerhawk.
When you look at what happened on our place, Thompson's place and Langeggers' back in 2004. And you look at how the presence of hydrocarbons have effected the area, particularly what we've seen from the springs and Southbank of Langegger's - there is a lot of visual and other evidence that should lead one to greater questioning, not just a cursory adjustment of the focus to enable drilling to continue.
This area is known to be rich in vertical faulting which, when combined with horizontal faulting makes for a fragile matrix. I know there's a LOT of gas here, and I know the drilling companies want it so badly they can practically taste it. But, maybe drilling shouldn't' occur here until the industry develops better methods to cope with the unique and fragile geology. Listen, we're not anti-industry. We signed a lease and are scheduled to be on the receiving end of royalties from that lease - once two of the scheduled six wells on the Juniper Group are completed. Of course, we'll probably end up putting the royalties into a legal fund if we ever see any. So, there is a financial incentive for us to cooperate with industry and allow them to drill. But money isn't everything. Money is nothing when you try to put a price on clean water air and soil and healthy wildlife. We cannot allow these companies to pollute our environment. Obviously, when done properly, drilling is okay. But "okay" and "problems" are grey areas - especially when so little is known about so complicated an industry and it's impacts on geology. I mean, the COGCC has given the industry a lot of wriggle-out back doors.
For instance, when drilling this area, the bradenhead pressure has to reach a certain intensity before it is considered indicative of a problem. But that particular pressure is relatively arbitrary and associated with known adverse effects already experienced in the environment - such as the 2004 seep. So, it's a loose threshold. What if adverse effects can occur at less pressures? Sadly, it seems the onus is on the landowner to point out a problem, beat their heads against a wall trying to get the COGCC or industry to respond let alone acknowledge the problem, and what then? We also have to prove the connectivity, because all of the rules and protocol are in place to further industry's needs. When you talk about money, where is the value is such a policy? The truth is that such a policy comes with a terrible, terrible cost.
Happy birthday America.
|Entry - 07-01-08
|Entry - 07-06-08
Getting Fed up with Being Gassed
My mother has had a terrible week with 'gunky eye'.
It has been going on almost continually - every night. Frequently, she
awakens and cannot open her eyes they are so glued shut. She has to feel her
way to the bathroom to soak her eyelids in warm water in order to be able to
Entry - 07-01-08
In The News
From: The Post Independent
The COGCC has issued
Notice of Alleged Violations or "NOAV"s to several area opperators for
suspected contamination of a water source.
Also according to the report....
COGCC, in its complaints against the four companies, also cited them for
allegedly not telling the state about the discharge, state records show.
Spills or releases of any size that impact or threaten to impact state
waters, residences, occupied structures, livestock or public roads has to be
verbally reported to the director of the COGCC "as soon as practicable after
discovery," according to the state's current rules for the oil and gas
This is so disturbing, but not really surprising. This event simply highlights the need for better rules to help protect groundwater. I mean, industry is lobbying for "performance standards" which in essence says ' let us do what we do and hold us to a certain standard. If we fail that standard, then fine us or whatever.' Well, that would be great if there were 10,000 inspectors on the ground to police this wily bunch.
But the COGCC is losing people left and right and can't even get folks to fill out an application let alone keep them on payroll. Industry is scarfing up qualified folks partly because they pay them a way better salary.
If it turns out that industry caused this mess here with this poor guy Prather, well -it's one more instance where the victim had to report the incident. This is not unusual. People shouldn't have to suck up benzene and then call and complain about being sick. This is totally bass-ackwards, and if we have to depend upon public reporting - a pubic trashed by a violation, then who is going to report what goes on up on BLM or Forest Service lands? What is a vacationing family to do when their kids play in a polluted stream, looking for frogs, then happily jaunt back to Illinois only to discover maybe weeks, months or years later that something is amiss? You know, the industry talks about regular folk using scare tactics when we press for rules. Well you know what? I am scared. I'm damn scared. And anybody that isn't is either ignorant or a fool.
With one startlingly complex thought....
Avoid what is evil;
-- The Pali Canon 900-250 B.C.
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