|Week Forty-Five July 28 - August 03|
|Entry - 07-29-08
|Day 31 of new seep and still no interest from COGCC in
identifying gas emanating from black seep area. But, now that water isn't
gurgling up in this one area - at least as visibly, the gas may have
Nor has any interest been shown in examining the white corrosive-appearing substance that is now present where the seep appears to have been flowing at the base of the cliff. But, now that it has rained and the ground water presumed to be feeding the black seep has apparently shifted to only the orange area, the rains will likely wash away that opportunity. So, those opportunities have probably been largely lost.
No groundwater sampling has occurred, despite this new seep emerging together with the sudden appearance of ground water expressing to the surface.
Entry - 07-28-08
The county picked up their monitor today....
Activities over at the Juniper Group well pad varied last week - from protracted days of silence to full-on crazy cranking and grinding and clanging. Weird. Meanwhile, gunky eye persisted to varying degrees and only some sinus trouble, with a couple of days of blessed relief that had been a year in waiting.
There were days we smelled funky stuff, like one evening, the air was dense with a combination of aerosol and solvent; and then another time, it was just weird, vague chemical smells. Once we even smelled baby powder. But we only made note of the solvent odors since the others were harder to identify or, like the baby powder, strong, but fleeting. Plus, we had about four hours of rain the last few days and things like wet knapweed can produce odd odors, so we have to take that into account.
We'll see what the results show.
Entry - 07-29-08
Seep 2008 Update
I've been in communication with a bunch of folks around the country from Alaska to Wyoming, Washington State, Missouri and Louisiana on the Diesel Range Organics (DRO) findings. Toxicologists, hydrologists and toxics cleanup specialists have weighed in and offered their much appreciated perspective on this issue. Though there was a little variance in speculation as to possible cause (and I credit their experience to thinking of as many sources as possible), there was very little variation on perspectives of procedure, and I was heartened that, throughout much of our wide-ranging conversations a pattern of consistent opinion arose relative to what should reasonably have occurred after these DRO's were found in the soil.
All agreed that a general qualitative analysis should have been ordered and an effort to fingerprint or identify (speciate) the compound present so that associated toxic materials could also be determined. Further, they all agreed that testing for naphthalenes should have occurred; and, given that ground water is newly expressing to the surface, BTEX analysis for the ground water and soil matrixes should have followed. This is what I suspected after performing a brief and cursory on-line inquiry, but I wanted to hear from the experts in that community that, indeed, we were not overreaching to conclude that such testing should have followed or would be reasonable to request.
I found one conversation particularly interesting. Persons in official capacities have to tread a very narrow line defined and drawn tight by political tensions. They tell you things in a way that you have to clue into. They wave a great big red flag in very very subtle ways and it is always an interesting challenge to try and detect what they are trying to get you to see. So this person last week said offhandedly.... in a matter of conversation.... almost as if by happenstance... they said... "uh huh... uh huh... interesting.... kind of like Pavillion, Wyoming.... uh huh...." and later, it was after a pause and a sip of some beverage.... "uh huh... yeah.... Pavillion.... uh huh...."
This person, while careful not to overstate, was, in "official-speak", jumping up and down and in effect saying "Holy shit, you're kidding! You need to find out what 's been going on in Pavilion, Wyoming!" You and I would have probably been more blunt, but we don't walk that tightrope.
With the recent rains, any opportunity to identify the corrosive-appearing material has probably been lost.
Oh...., so what happened in Pavillion? EnCana trashed the ground water.
You know, we'd a whole lot rather work cooperatively with both the COGCC and EnCana, and we'd rather not have to do all this research and raise all this fuss. But given the consensus of experts, there is a compelling need to know what is in that ground water. So we have to push for it. If there's something there - I'll look like an unfounded genius. If not, I'll look like an ass.
You know what? I'd rather look like an ass than look up from the bottom of a six foot hole in the ground.
Letter to Officials Re: Divide Creek Seep 2008
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
Re: New Divide Creek Seep
Mr Neslin, please forward this letter to each of the nine Commissioners.
This letter is sent in advance of a pending hardcopy which will follow. Please note that copies of this letter have been forwarded, via e-mail in some cases, to other agencies listed below.
July 29, 2008
Dear Mr. Neslin and COGCC Commissioners,
On June 28th, 2008 we discovered, on our property, a seep in West Divide Creek bearing certain characteristics which appeared identical to those which occurred in this vicinity during the Schwartz well blow-out and resulting on-going seep event of 2004. Specifically, we have observed the proliferation of what appear to be iron-reducing microbial colonies together with biofilm on the banks of West Divide Creek, in an area where ground water is newly expressing to the surface.
Additionally, we discovered other characteristics unlike any observed in 2004: A black seeping area which seemed to be expressing an oil-like substance and which left a burnt-looking patina along the eroded edges of its flow channels. Further, we observed a corrosive-looking substance emerging primarily in areas behind the black seep. This substance is acting to corrode and deteriorate the sandstone boulders as well as vegetative matter it came into contact with.
The area of this seep extends approximately 60 feet along the creek bank and approximately 30 feet toward the cliff to the North. It may also extend onto Mr.Langegger’s property to the East, only twenty or so feet from the Black Seep sampled area.
EnCana Oil and Gas, USA is the nearest operator in our area with three nearby well complexes to the North-West and North-East of the seep site. Because of this; their re-entry of the Schwartz site at or about the time our observations of environmental anomalies began last year; and, because of the history associated with the Schwartz well, we suspect that EnCana’s activities in the area may have contributed to the new seep we are observing.
Bill Barrett Corporation is also operating in the area – though significantly further North. Other operators are working in the area significantly further to the East.
On July 03, 2008, COGCC field staff sampled six vials of West Divide Creek’s surface water near the microbial growth to test for BTEX, and collected one sample of the black seep soil to test for Diesel Range Organics (DRO). The water matrix in association with that sampling effort revealed no BTEX. This is not surprising since very similar visual characteristics (a profusion of orange microbial colonies) are still present in the area of the “main seep” (which is still active from 2004), yet – recently, BTEX have only been present in the shallow ground water very near the same area.
In the black soil sample, Diesel Range Organics were detected at levels which may not produce immediate alarm or bear mitigation in the eyes of the state, but which should have raised suspicions, since we first began reporting environmental anomalies to the COGCC Denver staff last year when our observations coincided with renewed drilling on the Schwartz pad. Those renewed activities involved temporarily shutting in the offending well involved in the ongoing 2004 seep event as well as drilling a number of new wells from that same pad.
Diesel Range Organics can be associated with heavy equipment, oil spills, petroleum, and even home heating oil, so their presence detected in an area that is otherwise pristine should be suspect of experiencing degradation due to industrial activities. Other states take the presence of Diesel Range Organics seriously - especially where shallow ground water is present or, as in our case, is present and newly expressing to the surface.
Unfortunately, in the Denver COGCC staff’s consistently weak effort to fully embrace the scope of this disturbing finding, no general qualitative analysis was performed; no soil or water PH was tested; no effort to ‘fingerprint’ or specifically identify the Diesel Range Organics was made – which impeded the identification of other potentially associated toxic material; the samples were not tested for napthalenes in the event inhalation exposure occurred (which it did); the soil samples were not tested for BTEX; no effort was made to identify the gas expressing from the black vent holes; no effort has been made to identify the corrosive-appearing substance which seems to be attacking the sandstone boulders in nearby proximity; and no effort has been made to sample the ground water for BTEX or other potentially harmful compounds.
In my subsequent conversations with the scientific community about the results of the sampling - including toxicologists, hydrologists and toxic cleanup specialists - a consensus emerged validating the reasonable furtherance of inquiry outlined above but which the COGCC conducted none of.
Diesel Range Organics support polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. PAHs can range from being non-toxic to extremely toxic. Those known for their carcinogenic (cancer causing), mutagenic (causing genetic mutations) and teratogenic (producing birth defects) properties are: benz[a]anthracene and chrysene , benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[j]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene,benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[ghi]perylene, coronene, dibenz[a,h]anthracene (C20H14), indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene (C22H12) and ovalene .
Though they can be present in the environment primarily as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels…. as a pollutant, PAHs are of serious concern. PAHs fall about midway on the environmental hazards list, but, of course, pollution concerns are dependent upon where the substances are located and in what concentrations. Diesel range organics are oil-related hydrocarbons, so tend to separate from water and cling to soils, leaving BTEX – or lighter hydrocarbons to proliferate in ground water where they are less likely to volatilize or become ripped apart by air molecules. Though PAHs tend to stabilize in soil structures, they can, however, migrate through soils and into ground water. Further they can become easily airborne and cling to dust particles. They pose an inhalation hazard, and in high concentrations can damage red blood cells, liver, kidneys and produce headaches, nausea and even death.
In an effort to demonstrate the urgency of a greater COGCC investigation into the black seep, I filmed a ‘purge’ event for three minutes, inhaling the vapors associated with it. I was nauseous and dizzy for three hours afterward. Of course, that effort did little good to encourage any further investigation by the COGCC.
To view all photos (in addition to those below) and other noted observations associated with this seep, you are encouraged to visit the link below. www.journeyoftheforsaken.com/dividecreekseep2008.htm
Since the arrival of industry in this area in 2003, we have done more than any other landowner will probably ever do to attempt to safeguard the environment in which we live while supporting safe drilling and the right of an operator to pursue natural gas resources. We are both landowners and mineral owners under lease with EnCana. Whether the COGCC recognizes or appreciates it, our defense of our home environment and family’s health is a personal and civic responsibility we take seriously; for these are resources we depend on for our very lives day in and day out.
Please be assured, we are not attempting to impede drilling activities despite their continued impacts to our family. In fact, we stand to benefit financially from drilling two wells on the Juniper Group complex – a pad near the new seep site. However, recent events closely parallel those observed in the 2004 Divide Creek seep. And that seep continues – in part, in the wetlands of Mr. Langegger’s property, unmitigated. While we would have raised alarms relative to EnCana’s efforts to lift the moratorium in 2005, and the COGCC’s enactment of stipulations which were by any measure, experimental, we were immersed in coping with my father’s terminal illness at that time.
Despite sweeping changes to the local COGCC field staff, the commission’s board, the directorship, and the state administration, some staffing elements remain the same and exercise much of the same minimalistic mindset that applied to our concerns in 2004. The failure of these authorities to properly investigate this situation suggests strongly the need for an internal audit of management procedure. Either by ignorance, willful neglect or perhaps even a lack of adequate resources, poor decisions continue to flourish. Whatever the reason for the apparent inability to grasp genuine threats to health and environmental protections, a pattern of doing so impedes the COGCC’s ability to react with due diligence adequately safeguarding public health and safety. If this is a task beyond the COGCC’s expertise or ability to manage then, perhaps a revisitation of the memoranda of agreement with other state agencies is in order, so that other agencies with greater experience and without a conflict of interest in attempting to serve the needs of the oil and gas industry as well as the public’s safety and environmental integrity do not conflict.
Surely, by now, the COGCC staff recognizes the environmental impacts presented by this industry. Yet, on its website, on a page dedicated to “Typical Questions From the Public About Oil and Gas Development in Colorado: specifically, number 4. “ How does the Commission protect the safety of the general public?”, the COGCC touts: “Moreover, cases of public safety impacts from oil and gas operations are extremely rare and generally non-existent in Colorado.” This verbiage used to be included in a similar handout I received in response to our concerns five years ago. Perhaps some of the staff actually believe this, or wish to further this fallacy.
Also from that same page: “The COGCC has broad statutory authority with respect to "…impacts on any air, water, soil, or biological resource resulting from oil and gas operations…". And goes on: “The COGCC requires that operators design and construct wells and facilities to protect ground water from contamination during oil and gas operations.”
EnCana’s reputation for polluting ground water is infamous, and it is a reputation the Commission should take seriously in considering what methods this operator uses to obtain and enhance the recovery of natural gas resources. Whether we discuss the massive blow-out in 2004 in relative proximity to this new seep, or we examine the facts around the Amos case, just up the road; whether we head north to Pavillion, Wyoming or go farther afield to Vulcan, Alberta – EnCana continues to make monumental and lasting environmental contributions which stand in stark contrast to their short-term though significant economic contributions.
We must ask ourselves, can we continue to sacrifice the public health and safety for productivity and profit?
The following quoted matter is from a June 05, 2008 news release of the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Laramie, Wyoming. It pertains to an area-wide assessment of natural gas operators and their record of environmental stewardship. It is titled: “Conservation Group Scores Wyoming’s Best, Worst Oil and Gas Companies” (British Petroleum, by the way, received the best score.)
“EnCana –EnCana’s activities have become a poster-child for irresponsible development. In the Upper Green River Valley’s Jonah Field, EnCana initially drilled 16 wells per square mile, at the time the worst project of the last several decades. Then this Canadian gas giant sought – and got – permission to drill an additional 3,100 wells in the field at densities from 64 to 128 well sites per square mile. When completed, the well pads will extend almost unbroken by native vegetation across 33,000 acres of public land, and they’re now expanding from this initial area. EnCana officials dishonestly claimed that directional drilling wasn’t possible in the Jonah Field, even though more than 140 directional wells have been drilled in this field. EnCana also holds leases inside the Adobe Town proposed wilderness and is pursuing drilling there. To top it all off, EnCana’s oil and gas wells have caused groundwater contamination problems in the Pavillion area of the Wind River Basin.”
Who can explain how an operator can be well regarded in one area and poorly regarded in another. We’ve seen this disparity even among different landowners. Perhaps it has something to do with how cooperative a landowner is – especially if they also hold mineral interests. Or perhaps is has to do with the amount of gas in an area relative to the expenditure of being a “good neighbor”. Perhaps that ratio of investment bears on an operator’s tendency toward better stewardship or not. I can only attest that in our area, and in our opinion, EnCana has habitually demonstrated a history of neglect in matters concerning public safety and environmental preservation. We cannot depend upon such operators to behave with our best interests in mind. Therefore, the COGCC must act in accordance with their mandate to protect public health and safety.
Clearly, this situation calls for an abundance of caution. A plethora of new evidence suggest the “East Mamm Creek Notice to Operators (EMCA)” or stipulations enacted to prevent recurrences of events like the 2004 seep appear grossly insufficient. To not act prudently in the face of such physical phenomena as we have seen and demonstrated to the COGCC is to abdicate responsibility for the protections of human health and safety as well as the public waters of Colorado and the environment.
Our domestic water well draws from the shallow ground water aquifer associated with this new seep as well as that of the “main seep” area. We specifically and respectfully ask the COGCC to, in the least, sample and if appropriate, continue to monitor the ground water associated with this seep. We are not experts and cannot know the appropriate course of action to take in such complicated matters which may be relative to industrial activity beyond our scope of familiarity. We also ask, therefore, that the COGCC bring to bear any other action appropriate to the protection of the public’s health and safety as well as that of this previously pristine environment.
We know this area is faulted vertically and horizontally, creating a fragile sandstone geologic matrix sensitive to subsurface disturbance. The canyon (Summerhawk Valley – and the site of both the seeps in 2004 and the new seep) is an exposed outcrop of that geology. West Divide Creek, as well as its habit-dependent vegetation and co-evolved fauna populations are particularly vulnerable to changes within this relatively isolated, unique micro-environment.
Our surface water, our ground water and our rich bio-diverse wildlife are some of Colorado’s most precious resources. We are uniquely blessed to know 60 acres of dedicated wildlife habitat as our home. But in 2004, we saw this environment assaulted, and the company found responsible turn away from its responsibility and, instead, blame the very landscape for being prone to the degradation they introduced. This is the worst kind of emotional and intellectual perspective of the sort often adopted by the most unrepentant of criminals found guilty of crimes against the innocent. But what could be easier to blame than a silenced ecosystem?
It has recently become apparent that EnCana may be relying on the Diesel Range Organics results and COGCC assurances of safety to consider expansion of the Twin Creek well complex by adding a new pad. With only one well currently producing, that means a maximum of 19 new wells in the vicinity – only three hundred or so yards from the new seep site. EnCana’s assurances, we can only assume, are the same as ours which we received from COGCC staff in association with 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.”
We are fearful. We are frustrated, and we feel that inappropriate industrial activities are being allowed to increasingly destroy our environment, our home and our health. You alone have the unique authority to introduce efforts at mitigating this industry’s impacts or turn your back on this vibrant, biologically diverse landscape which is degrading in front of us.
Please, we implore you to investigate this seep more thoroughly, to determine the extent of contaminants in this area, and more closely examine the internal procedures responsible for failing to identify potential threats to our water supply that – as the presence of Diesel Range Organics suggest, may already be present in the ground water, as well as the source of their anomalous occurrence.
A few photos from the seep area as well as a conceptual map follow:
More photos and a record of our observations can be seen at the website provided above.
Thank you sincerely for your time, concern and attention toward this very serious and urgent matter.
United States Environmental Protection
Agency - Region 8
The agencies noted above (Garfield County Commissioners and BLM have already received an e-mailed version) will receive copies with a separate cover letter as follows:
"Attached please find a copy of a letter delivered via e-mail today to the COGCC relative to the Divide Creek Seep and our concerns for our domestic water supply. The attachment file name is: “Bracken Letter to COGCC RE Seep 2008 07-29-08.doc” There are six photos imbedded in the letter. Please let me know if they fail to transmit.
We respectfully ask that within the County’s [BLM's or other depending on addressee] purview, you institute whatever measures may be at your disposal to help determine the extent of contaminants that may be present in the ground water of West Divide Creek, determine the source of such anomalies, aid in any potentially necessary mitigation and safeguard the public’s health and safety, including down-stream public water supplies.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
Thank you for your anticipated assistance in
|Entry - 08-02-08
Update on Letters
On Thursday I mailed hard copies certified to the
agencies noted in the letter above at a total cost of around $60. (The COGCC
requires 14 copies of whatever is sent). It's a good thing I sent the hard
copies certified, however, as the advance e-mail version made it to everyone
except the COGCC. Somehow, it got returned on Saturday. They should all have
the letter by Monday.
Seep 2008 Update
Tonight I walked to the cliff to take a photo showing the distance relationship between the Juniper Group Well and the seep, since an official recently asked if there were any wells nearby. In doing so, we were hit very hard by the presence of dying trees.
I've been observing the tree die-off for a while, noting it in particular behind the new seep area where it is dramatic and far along. However, tonight, I scanned the valley with binoculars and noted a progressive death among all species. Later I called a neighbor who said one of their family members and noted recently that the valley did not look healthy, like a lot of things were dying. But he said he hadn't really looked himself as he had been busy. I told him it wasn't just in the valley - it was all over. The photo below is of the cedar that gave me shelter from an emotional blow earlier this summer. It grows on the cliff overlooking Summerhawk Valley. I gathered its berries and scattered them to the wind asking for blessings for this tree and all others.
Some will say that this massive die-off is the result of beetles or heat or some other such thing, but I know of no insect or disease which kills all species at once. It is even affecting the shrubs. Methane, however does.
In 2004 I was shown a vision that I have held deep within, yet turned from again and again. I will not speak of it here.
No. I need not justify to anyone what I saw tonight. Tonight, I grieve the deepest sorrow. I grieve for the suffering of this mountain. For the life that is hurting at the hands of an unfeeling aggressor. I make no apologies for these feelings, and I do not hesitate to offer my pain and my heart-given consolation to the life that struggles to endure.
At the beginning of the proposed drilling, I summoned my spirit guides and all benevolent spirits or guardian angels belonging to this land - something I have never done.
And they came. Many came.
Many busied about our home that evening while I was away and stood, at the end of a very long day, leaning against the car in a parking lot in Glenwood praying and asking again that they come. My mother, who didn't know I had asked them to come, was struck by their density and active presence around our home and mentioned it to me when I returned. I mentioned that I had asked them to come and assess the situation. She said there was definite assessment going on.
Later that night we walked up to take a look at the Schwartz place. Most of the spirit folk lingered around the Juniper Group site as if studying it. A few - only a few were on the Schwartz site - not studying.... more looking about. A couple were briefly near me as I stood feeling their presence and trying to ascertain their objective or intent. I could not. But they were quite busy and extremely focused.
It was heartening that so many guardian angels were hanging around and looking after things. I was relieved that they at least had taken stock of the situation in their way - whatever way that may be.
Whatever happens - they say the Lord works in mysterious ways, and I know it to be true. The death of the life on this mountain, however, has shaken me to my core.
Out of enormous and deepest respect to these sentinels that offer me so much grace and strength and wisdom I will not write any more until my heart has found a way to expel the devastating sadness that engulfs it. I will pray for guidance in my grief, and ask for reasons - though I know I may be shown none. I will try to find a way to lessen the suffering, to somehow stem the pain of these stoic beings unable to flee.
And when I emerge, stronger and more resolved - I will summon this mountain's guardian angels.... again.
In my quest for illumination - I am guided by shadow
Late in the night of August 2nd, I walked to the cliff and opened my heart to my spirit guides in the hope I would find answers to the overwhelming sadness I feel for the loss of so many of our trees. A part of me dies when they die and don't know that too many people understand that. I feel the same way about the elk, the deer, the birds - all critters who suffer, and in our case, suffer at the hands of the energy industry..... suffer because of apathy and ignorance from those with the authority to mitigate it.... and suffer because of the carefully designed jurisdictional limitations which prevent those who do care in agencies presumed responsible from responding to this situation.
So, I carried this sorrow to the cliff and I asked for guidance. At first, it was like standing around in a vacuum. I was so consumed by this blank sense of useless sorrow that I really couldn't hear. I was so distracted by a sense of immediacy to shore up defenses and carry on that I simply couldn't receive in my heart the message that always awaits - when I listen. In fact, a couple of nights ago all I really wanted to do was crack open a bottle of tequila on the cliff and hold my own personal powwow. But I knew on many levels that wouldn't solve anything, and I'd only be able to run from the pain for awhile.
So, here I was - sober to the heavens, bear in spirit to the wind.
And little by little, as I focused less on my fear of not hearing and as I focused less on not hearing what I thought I might want to hear - as I simply opened my heart to any possibilities, I was given the guidance I asked for. Well - it's interesting. I thought I was asking for what I should do next and how things would turn out. That's a pretty human thing to ask.... but it turns out that what I was really asking for and what was answered was more a characterization of where the hell I was. Not so much where I was going. On a moonless night, it wasn't the light that guided me. It was the shadows.
And in those shadows, I found shape.
I wrote a poem once that went:
This piece is the sum-total of how I regard our human experience. For all our investment, for all our interactions and emotional wrenching, we, in the end dissolve into a molecular stew to be reworked again and again. But a record of our spiritual enlightenment is writ on such tiny scripts and it is built, rebuilt and passed on. I am a thousand year old spirit in a 40 year-old rented suit.
So, I asked: What is the strength? How can I translate a pain that will
And I asked with my voice: What is my resolve? But my heart silently
asked: what will happen? How will this end? And my spirit guides heard
beyond my voice, as they always do, and listened only to what I was asking
in my heart.
And I asked should I fight? Should I go in peace? In my heart, I am ready
to fight. To fight on. To do what is necessary. And, because all I could
think about were ways and means and outcomes and strategies and all the crap
that comes with a fight, I could barely break through this mindset to
receive an answer, but I knew it was an important aspect of this quest for
guidance. You have to be as prepared for peace as you are for war. So, I
raised a physical symbol of my heart-speak to help me focus on the intent behind
the fight we have been fighting and any to come. I raised this symbol above the land and I moved in a
circle, like a lightening rod. I gathered all of the senses from that
gesture, then placed the symbol in a position of peaceful exchange and held it high above the land as I, once
again, moved in a full circle attempting to ascertain if a peaceable
approach would be the right approach..... to do nothing, to hope and to pray and
to be content.... if that would be enough. There was a strong sense to pray.
But, prayer is a component of all my endeavors - I pray for peace
constantly, and I pray for guidance, I pray to be worthy of such guidance
and use it well, and I pray for my adversaries.
And I asked: How can I stop this from happening? How can I fix this?
And I asked: What can I do to fix it? Not really realizing that "What"
and "How" were very different. But they are. I asked the "How" and the
"What" in a series together, but my spirit guides separated the two by
providing two very different responses to what I thought had been the same
question. They answered the "How" above. But when they answered the
I am always stunned by the elegant structure of the guidance I am given. Room to interpret with an open and honest heart, but clear and powerful meaning none the less. Thank goodness for the enduring patience of my spirit guides, because there was a time when the tequila would have won out - at least momentarily. Thank goodness for their willingness to hang in there with me because I surely frustrate their intentions. I'm not the best monk. But I know too well that my knowledge of self and place are limited by the scope of my humanness, and I know well also that our spirit guides, our angles are here to guide us in our faith if we allow and invite it.... regardless of the color or the shape of our faith - the colors and shapes we assign it so we may recognize it and therefore know it. So I try to hear and listen with my heart. For that, and I guess that alone, they must feel I'm worth a shot.
This night, I wasn't necessarily shown where to go from here, but I was shown where I am. And you can't get anywhere until you know that. The pain I feel from the loss of life on this mountain and the earth-over, is pervasive and real and it will not diminish; but, the task for me is not to abate it, the task is to understand it and to become more aware. In that awareness we can grow and move more surely toward the "How", easing the burdens we've thrust upon this grand gift we were given - this living, breathing nurturer we know as our mother. Now that I'm a little more squared away.... now, I will ask this mountain's guardian angles to come.
Ordinarily, I would not post this type of message on these seep-specific pages. But, the heart-rending nature of the suffering of our trees was pivotal to the outcome of this situation and my role in it. The message I was given in my quest for guidance was meant to be shared with anyone who may receive it, so here it is.
As I stood from writing this passage and headed off in a different direction, wondering if I should have shared all of this, wondering who would really care, and - always by a grace I don't understand - somehow doing, I guess, what I was supposed to do, I was met with 11:11 on the clock radio. Big, bold, neon red and in my face. Man, angels rock.
It is stunning to me, that in the twenty years we've lived here, the first fifteen were harmonic with our environment, EnCana punches half a dozen holes in the ground and within five short years the impacts are heart and gut wrenching. We stand here watching this mountain die, powerless and knowing that there are many more holes to come - the least of which are in our hearts.
Perhaps this land is to be sacrificed so that others may see the devastating impacts from a poorly conceived and greed-driven energy policy. So that, with any hope at all, other places won't have to endure the same negligent and utterly callous degradation.
This run of cottonwoods in the middle ground died within a few weeks of the 2004 seep. They are perhaps a couple hundred yards from the new seep. Of course, we stressed to the COGCC supervisor in charge of the investigation what had occurred, but, to our knowledge, nothing was ever recorded - other than by us - about these trees or those that died on our property or others'. [07-30-08]
This is the cottonwood canopy once favored by songbirds in Summerhawk Valley. You can see that it is struggling - the canopy is sparse. This photo - cropped from a panorama on Week 41 - was taken on 07-01-08
|Now, only a month later, the trees are nearly completely defoliated. This photo was taken on 08-01-08 My guess is - like the run of trees on Langegger's in 2004 - these will never recover.|
This is what is left of the cottonwood canopy shown above. [07-30-08] I used to love to stand beneath this canopy and listen to the songbirds. Their joy, in such a cool, shady habitat - lush and near the water - was transcendent and filled my heart with the purest bliss.
We have lost many of our birds in the last two weeks. Sometimes they leave the area for the high country and return mid to late July. But, we've not seen a return. Only one or two remain. We have much fewer hummingbirds also. A neighbor reported that they had more than the usual number of birds and chipmunks lately. Our chipmunks have also gone. In 2004, we experienced a silent spring as most life left this beautiful place.... fleeing the environmental contamination - most of which was not ever acknowledged. Even the ants left. Hornets thrived, however. Then, too, a neighbor reported finding birds with bulging eyes. Just yesterday we called to get an update on his bird situation and once again, he has seen a bird with bulging eyes.
It's bitterly ironic that this dying cedar sports a Wildlife refuge sign. [07-30-08]
A large percentage of this cedar cluster is suffering. [07-30-08]
As is this one.... [07-30-08]
The tree to the left has died, the one in the middle is severely stressed, the one to the right is giving up the ship. Those further back have already gone. [07-30-08]
Bush just behind seep area - last week this bush looked fine. Today, 07-31-08, part of it is just crispy fried.
Severely impacted cedars on high ground above Sumemrhawk Valley [07-30-08]
More impacted cedars near those on the left. We used to have maybe a ten-fifteen percent mix of long-dead cedar to vibrant healthy cedars - with a tiny fraction of a few in the process of natural attrition. Now, as you can see, the percentage of decay is nearly on par with those that remain - given the stress the remaining trees endure, that percentage appears likely to climb. [07-30-08]
Another recently lost cottonwood - very near the cedar on the right, and also perhaps 30 yards from the seep site. [07-30-08]
|This cedar is seriously in trouble. It is perhaps thirty yards or so from the seep site on elevated ground. [07-30-08]|
Even the pines are affected. [07-30-08]
This one is better off, but it is showing stress in a number of areas with part of it's branches already stripped. [07-30-08]
Shrubs are also affected. Usually, these don't 'turn' until sometime in August. Perhaps these are only experiencing an early turn - that can sometimes happen, so we'll hope that's the case here and on the photo to the right. It is odd, however, that not all squaw bush are turning. Only some. [07-30-08]
More affected squaw bush.... [07-30-08]
This is how a healthy cedar dies back. Usually, it happens in sections.... a trunk segment will die off and leave the rest of the tree healthy. This is what is happening here. Most of this cedar is dead, but a small portion of it remains vital and green. To see entire trees impacted and defoliating is unusual and shocking. [07-30-08]
New Video just listed on YouTube - Divide Creek Seep 2004 (the stuff they don't want you to see)
Here is a part of my "What to do".... a part of sharing the message "as we harm our earth we harm ourselves". The following are video links to You Tube, where you can see the full-on nasty of the seep that happened in 2004, and see yourself the parallels we are seeing in the seep discovered on June 28th, 2008. I will be working over the next day or so processing more of these clips to provide you with the broadest snapshot of defining characteristics that I can.
Creek Seep 2004 - Characteristics of gas expression
Creek Seep 2004 – Blackcloud demonstrates combustion
Creek Seep 2004 – Bubbling in Eicher Bracken beaver pond
Creek Seep 2004 – Combustion of tiny vents on bank
Seep 2004 – Mother Vent bubbling
Creek Seep 2004 - Algae cages in Divide Creek
Creek Seep 2004 – Springs with bacteria and biofilm
Creek Seep 2004 – Remediation
Divide Creek Seep 2008 -
Gas bubbling in Turkey Point Beaver Pond 07-30-08
Seep 2008 Update
I've recently learned that the orange gunk is indeed iron-reducing bacteria. It still proliferates to an unusual and high degree under this embankment [07-30-08]
The bacteria is still present beneath this cracked boulder, but, presumably because the moisture behind the seep is diminishing - together with the surface expression of possible hydrocarbons - the gunk is retreating to more moist and hospitable areas. [07-30-08]
This is the south bank where one seep point was discovered opposite from the boulder (barely visible underwater in lower right of picture) where the 8 minute-expression was filmed. There is much less iron-reducing bacteria present, but the erosion and presence of a number of vents (including the one - dark spot - almost centered in picture) suggests a relatively significant ground water discharge to the surface.
Ponded areas muddy from 4 hours worth of rains, three days previous - maybe more in the high country washing downstream. [07-30-08]
Area of black seep [Diesel Range Organics
(oil-related hydrocarbons)] and white corrosive-looking stuff. This area is
still moist but is dryer than before. [07-30-08]
Entry - 08-03-08
In the News.... I haven't had a moment to take up this week's happenings - other than our own, but I know a lot of good folks turned out in Glenwood, Wednesday, to protest the BLM's lease of the Roan.... YAY! My message to BLM: Hey, folks - take a look at what we are dealing with right here in Summerhawk Valley - please listen to the people and don't let the Roan fall victim to the same.
|Thank you everyone who has shared this
blog with friends, family and colleagues.... and who stands with us -
even virtually - as we face one of the biggest challenges of our lives to
befall us.... yet again....
We want to thank everyone who has expressed their concern over recent weeks for my family's wellbeing and that of our home and all the wonderful life that shares this special place with us.
We have been especially touched by those who feel the same loss we do. People from the cities and suburbs across the country who do not live in a wild area but have shared a little of this mountain's magic through this blog - the ups and the downs - and feel the emptiness of its senseless degradation, suffering and loss as we do.
Likewise, there have been folks who are trained in ecology and tasked professionally with its preservation who have offered invaluable insight and guidance as we share the story of what is occurring here, human being to human being - beyond barriers of "official" this or that.
Most surprising - and heartening.... even a few folks in the industry want to be associated with a more responsible industry and are quietly rooting for positive change.
We are so grateful for everyone's interest and concern, that words are insufficient to express our gratitude. Your care, concern and efforts on our behalf are immeasurably appreciated, and we thank you so much.
This is a monumental challenge as we are met with technical and jurisdictional barriers left and right in a web of governance that seems to favor corporate gain over public health and safety. Thanks to the suggestion of one friend, we stayed up all night Sunday pinching off video clips of the seep in 2004 so people could see comparable characteristics. We still have a few to go, but so far a few of the biggies are on YouTube - (linked above).
Your support inspires us to hang in there during times when we don't
always know what to do or where to turn next.... Thank you!
You must be the change you want to see in the world
-- Mahatma Gandhi
All contents of this site, unless
otherwise noted are copyrighted by Lisa Bracken, 2007-2008. All rights are