Garfield OKs completion of water study in gas field

The Garfield County Commission on Monday approved moving ahead with completion of a study that the county’s former oil and gas liaison says found a possible link between natural gas development and methane in shallow groundwater south of Silt.

Commissioners agreed to a contract not to exceed $94,839 to GeoTrans Inc. for completion of the groundwater study. It’s the third phase of a larger investigation. A previous phase led county geological consultant Geoffrey Thyne to conclude methane levels were increasing in domestic water wells in that area, apparently as a result of gas development. The industry challenged Thyne’s conclusions.

The third phase has involved the county drilling six groundwater monitoring wells. Judy Jordan, who was fired by the county last year, said in a recent letter to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that methane and methane compounds turned up in all six wells. That suggested the drinking-water aquifer contains its own hydrocarbons, that they naturally migrated upward from commercial gas targets, or that gas wells induced their migration into the aquifer, wrote Jordan, who worried in her letter that commissioners were delaying the report’s completion.

Kirby Wynn, the county’s new oil and gas liaison, told commissioners Monday continuing monitoring and data is needed, and additional sampling will occur this summer. The report probably will be complete late this year, he said.

Lisa Bracken lives near where gas and benzene from a well seeped into West Divide Creek starting in 2004, and she has contended gas from drilling is surfacing in creek waters on her property. While she pushed for more county and state attention to her concerns, she told commissioners Monday she turned down its offer to put in a water-monitoring well because the contract asked that she deed property for the well.

“The contract was onerous and precluded people (from) cooperating with the county,” she said.

Commissioners indicated they weren’t aware of such a requirement, and Commissioner Mike Samson told Bracken the county could revisit the matter.

Also Monday, David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, told commissioners natural gas developers committed to $800,000 for a planned study to characterize air emissions and dispersion patterns near well pads.

The county, industry, Colorado State University and other entities are in discussions regarding the study, which is contingent on other funding being obtained as well.

“It will be a world-class study that as far as we know will be the first of its kind,” Ludlam said.


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