Feds probe response to leak
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating whether its regulations are being followed regarding protection of workers who have responded to a liquid hydrocarbons spill near Parachute.
The federal agency is trying to determine if any employees involved with the response and cleanup have been exposed to any hazardous materials, said Herb Gibson, director of OSHA’s Denver area office.
He said it hasn’t drawn any conclusions, and the investigation probably will last a few months.
He said he can’t say what triggered the investigation, but that it pertains to Williams and any other employers involved with the response.
Some 6,000 gallons of hydrocarbons have been recovered in a pipeline corridor near Parachute Creek that contains lines serving Williams’ nearby natural gas processing plant. Williams and contractors have been involved in vacuuming out fluids, digging interceptor trenches, sampling water and other activities.
Williams spokesman Tom Droege said it’s his understanding “that OSHA did perform a routine inspection on our site last week.”
“We fully accommodated the agency with the site visit and provided the information they requested,” he said.
“We follow all safety standards as required by OSHA,” said Droege, who said he’s not aware of any violation in connection with the leak response.
When the investigation began to focus on a high-odor leak hot spot near a valve set, Williams halted work until it could bring in special monitoring and protective equipment, Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said at the time.
Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said she’s heard from workers who said they weren’t provided respirators earlier, and learned later that they were working around dangerous benzene that had been detected in groundwater tests.
“I’m just glad that OSHA’s getting involved. In these incidents I think (companies) should assume that they’re dealing with dangerous chemicals and hand out respirators and protective gear from the start and not after testing is done,” she said.
On Tuesday, state officials said two more monitoring wells across the creek from the investigation site, on its south side, showed groundwater impacts, after the first impacts to a well across the creek were reported Monday. The two wells, adjacent to the creek, showed benzene levels of 3,300 to 2,600 parts per billion. The federal drinking water standard for benzene is 5 or less ppb.
Three other wells about 50 feet from the creek’s south side showed no benzene, but a well 200 feet east of the creek had a benzene level of 1,200 ppb.
Also, for the first time since March 9, creek sampling showed diesel-range organics in the water. But as on March 9, DROs also were found in an upstream sample, suggesting a possible intermittent source separate from the hydrocarbons leak, such as stormwater contamination.
Sampling 800 feet upstream of the investigation area, on the other side of a road bridge, showed DROs at 3.3 parts per million. Two locations in the investigation areas produced readings of 3.1 and 1.4 ppm. Samples from three sites downstream showed no DROs.
Kirby Wynn, Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison, said there’s no drinking water standard for DROs, although there can be for individual compounds within the range of such organics.