Divide Creek seep should halt drilling in area, citizen says

A resident says a recent problem with a natural gas well points to a need to halt drilling again in the West Divide Creek area south of Silt.

Lisa Bracken is calling on Garfield County commissioners to ask the state to reinstitute a drilling moratorium in the area where natural gas from drilling leaked to surface waters in 2004. Commissioners may consider the matter March 2.

Bracken’s request follows a January incident in which an EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) well in the area experienced a “kick” of high gas pressure and water flowed from the well.

Bracken’s neighbor, Jim Eubanks, shares her concern that drilling operations might result in natural gas getting into drinking water.

“They’re sitting right on top of our water table,” he said.

Dave Neslin, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said EnCana reported a water flow of about five gallons per minute in the January incident.

The state authorized pumping additional cement to seal the well and the water flow ceased, he said.

EnCana spokesman Doug Hock said the leak occurred about 1,000 feet down, well below the bottom of the drinking water aquifer, which is about 300 feet deep.

The commission fined EnCana $371,200 for a gas seep into West Divide Creek in 2004. The agency also imposed a moratorium on drilling in the area, but later lifted it after putting new drilling rules in place there. Bracken said those rules need to be re-examined for at least part of the former moratorium area, and more groundwater monitoring is needed.

The state and EnCana say drilling under the new rules has been safe.

“We have not had a problem since the moratorium was lifted,” Hock said.

Last year, the commission did tests on Bracken’s property after she pointed to a blue film on surface water, dead crayfish and vegetation and other indications of what she believes is natural gas leaking from wells to the surface. But the agency said it didn’t find evidence of such a leak.

Nevertheless, “We’re continuing to review information on that area, and we’re continuing to look into Lisa Bracken’s concerns,” Neslin said.

Eubanks said his water has turned his silverware black, and a red, corrosive film has appeared in stock tanks. Hock said an EnCana official found that a white buildup in the tanks was salt, which is common in the aquifer.

Bracken also said a firm doing testing for EnCana found evidence of natural gas from drilling in groundwater-monitoring wells. Hock said he doesn’t believe that is the case.


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