GarCo board concerned about gas drilling near contaminated spring

Garfield County commissioners may ask for a hearing before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission if the agency’s staff approves a proposed drilling permit near the site of the Prather cabin spring contamination.

Commissioners are concerned about further drilling occurring in the vicinity of the cabin northwest of Parachute, pending further evaluation of how drilling-related contaminants got into the spring and a second spring on the property.

Ned Prather became ill on May 30, 2008, after drinking the benzene-tainted water at the cabin. Benzene can cause cancer and is a naturally occurring by-product of oil and gas production.

An investigation into the cause of the contamination continues. County commissioners previously have voiced frustration that the state hasn’t yet done what’s necessary to get the problem remediated.

Meanwhile, Marathon Oil has applied to the state for a drilling permit in the vicinity.

John Martin, chairman of the county board of commissioners, asked the county’s oil and gas liaison, Judy Jordan, on Monday to reiterate the county’s concerns to oil and gas commission staff. If the staff issues the drilling permit anyway, he said, then he thinks the county needs to request a hearing before the state commission.

Marathon was one of four oil and gas companies the state originally targeted in its investigation into the Prather cabin spring’s contamination. The state since has narrowed its focus to operations by Williams Production RMT, which says it doesn’t believe it is responsible for the problem.

The state is investigating OXY USA WTP LP as the possible source of the second spring’s contamination.


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