Natural gas fracking has been linked to everything from sick cattle to earthquakes. Environmental activists often focus on fracking’s very immediate impacts on water and air quality, something the industry is quick to deny. However, the recent “biblical” floods in Colorado have exposed a less obvious risk of allowing fracking into our communities.
Although you’re not likely to hear about it from the mainstream media, anti-fracking groups on the ground in Colorado have noted a disturbing development: oil and gas wells across Northern Colorado have been submerged by massively swollen rivers. Many drilling sites are still flooded, hampering progress in shutting them down.
Displaced condensate tanks could be seen floating freely down flooded streets near Greeley and Kersey, CO. These tanks are used to store waste liquid from drilling operations… The toxicity of the liquids stored in these tanks is largely unknown because they have been exempted from federal environmental laws.
Preliminary press reports indicate that perhaps as many as 13,000 of the more than 20,000 wells in Weld County may have some degree of flood damage. Many of the wells in this part of the state are believed to store drilling waste liquids in open pits rather in tanks as required in Weld County. Ozone created by leaking methane makes enclosed storage mandatory in Weld County. Not so, out east. Open pits may be widely flooded and disgorging their toxics into waterways.
The deluge occurred so suddenly, that many of the wells were still open and in operation. Only in the past day or so has progress been made to shut some of them down. Although the oil and gas industry is offering precious little information as to what flooded wells mean for environmental health, they do admit that the damage is too extensive to quantify at this time.
“In many cases operators have added additional security to tanks, such as chaining, to reduce chances they will float with the flood waters,” wrote Todd Hartman, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s spokesman, in an email to The Coloradoan. “They have also been shutting in wells to stop production and prevent overfilling storage tanks.”
According to the paper, “Gary Wockner, director of the Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund, said his group is calling for inspections of all compromised wells, once they have been identified. In the wake of the floods, Wockner would like to see new floodplain regulations passed restricting oil and gas development in floodplains — namely, pushing oil and gas development farther from the banks of the Poudre River.”
All images used with permission from East Boulder County United