GarCo board approves water treatment plant

Michael Smith bought his property south of Silt knowing it was across the road from a ranch protected from development by a conservation easement.

He didn’t expect it to become home to a water-treatment facility for the oil and gas industry, which the Garfield County Commissioners unanimously approved Monday.

Bill Barrett Corp. plans to operate the facility on 10 acres of its 297-acre ranch on Chipperfield Lane. The company says using the plant to recycle water and transporting water with pipelines will reduce truck traffic from its area drilling, such as the 250 round trips a day by trucks for a typical well-fracturing job. However, the facility still will generate an estimated 34 truck trips per day.

The site will contain up to 64 tanks capable of holding a total of nearly 1.8 million gallons. In objecting to the proposal, Smith told commissioners he already has to look at similar tanks from his home because of all the drilling around him.

He said fumes, truck traffic and other problems all have changed his quality of life as drilling has increased around his home.

“This is what my world has been turned into. This is what our neighborhood has been turned into,” he said.

While other residents also expressed concern about the treatment plant, some are happy Barrett was willing to reduce its impacts by building it in a different location on the ranch than the one initially proposed.

One resident, Don Louthan, said the nation needs energy from natural gas, and he’s less worried about drilling activity than about the shift in the Chipperfield Lane area from agricultural use to housing development.

“I’d rather see tanks than houses, personally,” Louthan said.

The Barrett ranch is protected from development by an easement agreed to by a previous owner and held by the Aspen Valley Land Trust. The land trust initially questioned the legality of the treatment facility.

However, it ultimately decided the easement is subordinate to terms of pre-existing oil and gas leases on the ranch and that it lacks standing to stop the facility.

The trust then worked with Barrett to come up with a proposal aimed at minimizing impacts on residents and wildlife.

County Commissioner Tresi Houpt voted for the facility, although she was concerned about its long-term nature versus shorter-term drilling operations.

“That’s for 20 years going to be people’s reality, (people) who are living in the area,” she said.


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