State health officials to take over probe of hydrocarbons leak

The responsibility of overseeing the investigation and cleanup of the natural gas liquids leak near Parachute will shift from state oil and gas regulators to health officials, authorities said this afternoon.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the state Department of Public Health and Environment have agreed that the CDPHE will assume primary jurisdiction over the incident in the next several days, according to Todd Hartman, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Williams has said thousands of gallons of natural gas liquids leaked from a faulty pressure gauge on a pipeline leaving its gas processing plant near Parachute. Benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, has been discovered in Parachute Creek and in groundwater.

The shift in oversight is due to a determination that the CDPHE has primary authority over the spilled liquids. State law and a memorandum of understanding between the CDPHE and the COGCC indicate that the COGCC is responsible for responding to discharges of exploration and production waste into state waters. The agencies have concluded that the hydrocarbons released from the pipeline do no constitute exploration and production waste, Hartman said in a statement.

Hartman said the change isn’t related to any change in circumstances at the leak site, the nature of the spilled hydrocarbons or what’s understood about the impacts to groundwater or surface water.

The agencies will work close together at the leak site, with the CDPHE in the lead position and the COGCC providing support as needed, Hartman said.

Meanwhile, Garfield County will hold a community meeting Monday about the ongoing investigation into the leak.

Representatives from the COGCC, the CDPHE, Garfield County Public Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will attend to answer questions, review each agency’s role in the investigation and cleanup process and address potential public and environmental health concerns.

The event will be at 6 p.m. at the Grand Valley Fire Protection District building at 0124 Stone Quarry Road in Battlement Mesa. Those unable to attend may contact county oil and gas liaison Kirby Wynn at 970-625-5905, and he will ask questions on their behalf and send them answers later by email.


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