Firm hopes water flow is near end

A company installing pipelines associated with Ursa Resources’ oil and gas development project in Battlement Mesa hopes by the end of this week to plug an unusual groundwater flow encountered during boring.

Summit Midstream ran into the problem Jan. 18 after it had nearly completed horizontally drilling a pilot bore for a water pipeline that will connect two Ursa well pads in Battlement Mesa, an unincorporated residential community of several thousand residents. A contractor for Summit struck a spring about 55 feet underground and water began gushing at estimated rates of as much as 294,000 gallons a day.

The incident initially forced the company to operate trucks 24 hours a day and to do work on a Sunday as it hauled off the water. That prompted several residents affected by the traffic to file complaints with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Garfield County. A county approval condition for the pipeline project generally limits construction operations to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. But it allows for Sunday work if field conditions or inclement weather make it necessary.

On Jan. 25, Summit obtained a permit from the state Water Quality Control Division to discharge water from the flow into the Colorado River so it didn’t have to keep trucking away the water.

Leonard Mallett, Summit’s chief operations officer, said Tuesday that the flow from the spring has diminished quite a bit. He said the company hoped to pull pipe through the hole on Wednesday, and then inject a slurry grout around the pipe in the week, which should provide a seal and end the groundwater flow.

The water pipeline will allow for movement of hydraulic fracturing fluid and wastewater associated with gas development. Summit also will be installing a parallel natural gas pipeline about 50 feet from the water line. Mallett said it will be routed along a different angle and depth to avoid the spring.

Mallett said he’s been in the business almost 40 years and done hundreds of directional drills.

“This is the first time that I’ve ever heard of us encountering this much water, so it’s rare,” he said.

He said the groundwater is being routed into a kind of ditch or waterway on private land to reach the river, and is staying within the banks.

Summit officials said in a written statement to the Daily Sentinel that Summit kept water from reaching the river or any other waters of the state prior to receiving the discharge permit. It says it pursued the permit after testing showed only groundwater was involved.

Lillian Gonzalez, a permit manager for the Water Quality Control Division, said it’s possible to run into groundwater during excavation for any kind of construction project, and to need to remove the water. Options can range from letting it evaporate in a lined pond, to hauling it to a facility that can handle it, to getting a permit to discharge into the waters of the state.

She said the Summit Midstream permit was issued under an assumption that the groundwater isn’t contaminated. That’s based on the fact that there’s no known nearby groundwater contamination in the area.

However, Summit is required to test the water for acidity, oil and grease, and total dissolved and suspended solids, and must limit the discharge to 400 gallons per minute, or 576,000 gallons a day.

Gonzalez said typically the biggest concern with such permits is making sure the suspended solids limit is met because of the loose dirt associated with excavation work. A company may have to filter the water before discharging it, she said.

A resident who asked not to be named told the Daily Sentinel early this week that some tanker truck traffic continued at the work site, although not around the clock. Mallett said trucks still could be emptying some water tanks on site, or doing unrelated work.

“For the most part the water that’s being produced is going into the Colorado River,” he said. 

In a Jan. 23 email to residents addressing the issue, Summit apologized for the additional traffic and noise that resulted from the incident. In this week’s written statement, it said it appreciated the state’s expedited processing of the permit application.

“Summit is committed to full compliance with applicable environmental standards, and takes all environmental issues associated with its operations seriously,” the company said.

Lillian Gonzalez, a permit manager for the Water Quality Control Division, said it’s possible to run into groundwater during excavation for any kind of construction project, and to need to remove the water. Options can range from letting it evaporate in a lined pond, to hauling it to a facility that can handle it, to getting a permit to discharge into the waters of the state.

She said the Summit Midstream permit was issued under an assumption that the groundwater isn’t contaminated. That’s based on the fact that there’s no known nearby groundwater contamination in the area.

However, Summit is required to test the water for acidity, oil and grease, and total dissolved and suspended solids, and must limit the discharge to 400 gallons per minute, or 576,000 gallons a day.

Gonzalez said typically the biggest concern with such permits is making sure the suspended solids limit is met because of the loose dirt associated with excavation work. A company may have to filter the water before discharging it, she said.

A resident who asked not to be named told the Daily Sentinel early this week that some tanker truck traffic continued at the work site, although not around the clock. Mallett said trucks still could be emptying some water tanks on site, or doing unrelated work.

“For the most part the water that’s being produced is going into the Colorado River,” he said. 

In a Jan. 23 email to residents addressing the issue, Summit apologized for the additional traffic and noise that resulted from the incident. In this week’s written statement, it said it appreciated the state’s expedited processing of the permit application.

“Summit is committed to full compliance with applicable environmental standards, and takes all environmental issues associated with its operations seriously,” the company said.

 

 


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