Spill discovered at suspect well pad

A spill of oil and gas contaminants has been discovered at a well pad that has been the focus of an investigation into pollution of spring water at a cabin northwest of Parachute.

Chris Canfield, an environmental protection specialist in Rifle for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said it isn’t yet known whether the spill is linked to the tainted spring water.

Ned Prather became ill after drinking the water May 30, 2008. It later was found to contain benzene, a carcinogen that is a naturally occurring byproduct of oil and gas production.

The pad’s operator, Williams Production RMT, notified the state of the spill in December after discovering it while closing the pit. The cause of the spill and extent of contamination remain unknown, according to the report Williams filed with the state.

The report said the spill consisted of hydrocarbon contamination, but it wasn’t more specific. “This is the first discovery of a release of hydrocarbon on that pad,” Canfield said.

But he said it remains to be determined when the spill occurred, whether the spilled contaminants reached groundwater, and whether their chemical signature matches the signature of the spring’s contaminants.

The state initially issued notices of alleged violation against four companies in connection with the spring water contamination, before narrowing its focus to Williams’ operations. A consultant for the state concluded the contamination appeared to result from a release of oil and gas condensate, and that the source probably came from the immediate east of the spring, where only Williams has facilities.

Williams spokeswoman Susan Alvillar said Williams continues to believe its operations aren’t the cause of the Prather spring contamination. She said the spill was discovered and reported as part of the ongoing investigation.

“There’s certainly no conclusions to the investigation as far as we’re concerned yet,” she said.

She said it appears more data will need to be gathered in the spring.


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