Companies fined over Parachute leak cleanup
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is accusing a Williams contractor and subsidiary of safety violations in connection with their response to the natural gas liquids leak north of Parachute.
The agency is seeking fines of $10,200 and $7,854, respectively, against Badger Daylighting Corp. and Bargath LLC. Bargath is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Williams oil and gas pipeline and processing company.
OSHA is accusing Badger and Bargath of violating hazardous waste operation and emergency response safety standards. It has accused each of them of seven violations but is pursuing fines for three violations apiece. The individual fines amount to $3,400 and $2,618, respectively, against Badger Daylighting and Bargath.
The actions relate to initial cleanup efforts after the discovery of a leak that was blamed on a valve pressure gauge leak from a natural gas liquids pipeline leaving Bargath’s gas processing plant near Parachute Creek. The leak is believed to have occurred this winter and resulted in an estimated 10,000 gallons of hydrocarbons reaching soil, groundwater and, in small amounts, the creek itself. Those hydrocarbons include benzene, a carcinogen.
Williams previously has said at its website, http://www.answersforparachute.com, that OSHA told it a Badger employee filed a complaint. Workers reportedly were concerned about not being immediately provided respirators at the leak site.
In an update on that website, Williams said the OSHA allegations against Bargath relate to worker safety training and processes, and allege that on the day after the leak discovery, Bargath did not have a fully developed written program for safety, site control, training and decontamination related to an emergency release of waste.
“Bargath has not agreed to or accepted OSHA’s allegations, and is currently working with OSHA within its guidelines to fully resolve the citations,” Williams said.
It also has said that it has been told by Badger that four employees who were concerned about benzene exposure were examined by a physician and cleared to return to full-duty work.
Williams also says on its website, “You should know that all employees and contractors are given a thorough safety orientation before they are allowed to begin work. As part of that briefing they are empowered to stop work and remove themselves from any situation they feel is unsafe.”
A Badger employee who asked not to be identified said Monday he worked at the cleanup site for a number of days without a respirator.
“Never were we ever told that we were dealing with a hazardous chemical,” he said.
He said he experienced headaches, cramps and aching joints after working at the site.
The employee said he recently was tested for benzene in his body and a minimal amount was found. However, he wasn’t tested for benzene immediately after working at the site, he said.
Badger did not return a call seeking comment.
Cleanup efforts at the leak site continue. Williams says only one test site on the creek has tested positive for benzene since May 14, and benzene at that site hasn’t topped 1.9 parts per billion during the last 30 days. The state drinking water standard is 5 ppb, but a more lenient standard applies to the creek.
Williams continues to await state approvals to begin operating a system to remove treated contaminated groundwater and return it to the aquifer.