GarCo to put heat on state for more answers in Divide Creek seep

The Garfield County commissioners continue to take potshots at the state over perceived lapses in oil and gas drilling enforcement for water contamination, deciding Monday to demand more answers in the now-infamous West Divide Creek benzene and methane leak of 2004.

According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, county consultant Dr. Geoffrey Thyne insists the seep into the creek may not be fully contained by repairs made by EnCana and also may not be limited to one well drilled by the company, as the state contends.

The banks of a Garfield County creek 'clotted with goo' (Photo: Bracken)

The banks of a Garfield County creek 'clotted with goo' (Photo: Bracken)

The seep led to property owner Lisa Bracken being able to light the creek water on fire back in 2004, and although carcinogenic benzene levels have subsided since more concrete was added to the well, Thyne – whose opinions in the past have led to conflict with the state and the industry – says methane levels have remained consistent.

Thyne in the past has said the overall increase in hydraulic fracturing – the injecting of chemicals, sand and water into gas wells to free up more natural gas – should be cause for more study of the practice to better understand the potential for chemicals communicating with groundwater supplies.

Republican County Commissioner Mike Samson, according to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, started to reference his past criticism for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner (COGCC) – the state agency charged with overseeing oil and gas drilling – but then backpedaled: “I don’t want to go into all that.”

Democratic County Commissioner Trési Houpt, also a member of the COGCC, has previously bristled at the notion the state is dropping the ball. The topic last came up when the commissioners voted to demand a faster, better response in the Prather Springs well contamination case.

Still, while the two Republican members of the Garfield County commissioners may feel Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s COGCC is to blame for recent water quality concerns relative to the oil and gas industry, they refused last week to back a federal bill that would require EPA oversight of hydraulic fracturing, maintaining new state regulations are up to the task.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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