Historic leaks suspected in Parachute investigation

A continuing investigation is suggesting more than one leak that possibly occurred in the past as sources of liquid hydrocarbon contamination near Parachute Creek northwest of Parachute.

That’s according to Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman, in a daily e-mailed update today to reporters on a situation being investigated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

That investigation continues to concentrate on a valve set for a 4-inch-diameter natural gas liquids line owned by Williams.

“The investigation to date has not identified an active source; the situation suggests to COGCC investigators the possibility there may have been historic releases in the vicinity of the valve set and the recovery trench that occurred over a period of time. That is … (a) focus of COGCC’s efforts,” Hartman said.

The recovery trench was dug to protect the nearby creek and help allow for removal of the fluids.

Williams spokeswoman Donna Gray said today, “Growing information that we have is pointing to more than one source.”

The 4-inch-diameter pipeline the valve set serves originates at Williams’ gas plant east of Parachute Creek and goes beneath the creek to tanks on the other side. The plant removes liquids such as ethane and propane from the gas.

The valve set last week became the focus of an investigation that began March 8 when Williams discovered contamination in the pipeline corridor, which holds several lines. Williams was doing location work as it prepares to build a second plant on the same site to remove a greater amount of natural gas liquids.

A historic rather than ongoing leak or leaks would coincide with what remediation crews encountered. Large initial amounts of an unidentified liquid hydrocarbon were removed for several days from the corridor just east of the creek. But the flows then tapered off and the total amount recovered stopped increasing after reaching about 6,000 gallons.

High levels of benzene, a carcinogen, have been found in shallow groundwater just 30 feet from the creek, but tests so far show no sign of contamination in the creek, authorities say.

Gray said Williams on Tuesday will be using a mechanical probe that can detect benzene and other volatile organic compounds associated with oil and gas development in groundwater and soils.

That will help it more quickly delineate the extent of contamination and get a clearer picture of what’s going on, she said.

Williams also has installed more groundwater monitoring wells, and established a fourth monitoring site along the creek, she said.


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