GarCo commission: State must address fouled spring water

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County commissioners on Monday called on the state to take immediate action to remediate oil and gas contamination of spring water that caused a man to become ill northwest of Parachute 17 months ago.

“The (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) needs to step up and do what needs to be done to rectify this. That’s their job and it’s not getting done,” Commissioner Mike Samson said.

Samson found himself directing his frustration at a fellow county commissioner, Tresi Houpt. Houpt recused herself from considering the matter as a county commissioner because she serves on the COGCC.

“You’re also a member of that commission and things aren’t getting done. Why not?” Samson asked Houpt, his voice rising.

Houpt said a lot of investigation has occurred in the case.

“I don’t think anyone has ever denied that there’s problems there. The concern is trying to isolate that problem so it can be remediated,” Houpt said.

On May 30, 2008, Ned Prather drank benzene-tainted drinking water at his cabin. The COGCC investigated four companies with operations surrounding the spring, but it cleared three of them and is focusing on Williams Production RMT. It also is investigating OXY USA WTP LP as the possible source of benzene contamination of a second spring on the property.

Benzene can cause cancer and is a naturally occurring by-product of oil and gas production.

Ned’s brother, Dick, a co-owner of the property, and their attorney, Richard Djokic, voiced impatience Monday that the responsible parties have yet to be identified and held accountable. A recent report by a state consultant said an OXY well pad was the likely cause of the second spring’s contamination, and a Williams pad and pipeline are possible culprits in the case of the first spring.

Williams says it doesn’t believe it is responsible for the contamination but is cooperating in the investigation. OXY regulatory coordinator Chris Clark said Monday his company will “do what’s right” to clean up contamination if it’s determined to be at fault.

Dick Prather said he’d like to see more monitoring wells installed, but has been told by the COGCC that they would be too expensive.

Samson said Gov. Bill Ritter is shortchanging the county by seeking to divert severance taxes away from energy-impacted communities to help balance the state budget, while leaving the COGCC without the resources to do its job.

Houpt said the agency has a fund for remediation projects. The county’s oil and gas liaison, Judy Jordan, suggested that the state do remediation on the property now and bill the responsible companies once they’re identified.


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