Recent fire at well pad worrisome to residents

Antero Resources is continuing to investigate the cause of a New Year’s Day fire at a well pad near Silt, as Battlement Mesa residents raise concerns about the potential for such incidents when Antero begins drilling in their community.

Dave Devanney of the group Battlement Concerned Citizens said the fire “points out why we feel drilling in a community with 5,000 people is not a good idea.

“This goes to show that in our opinion a quote-unquote ‘good operator’ will still have significant problems with their drilling operations.”

The recent fire, which burned for about 80 minutes, involved the contents of two natural gas well flowback tanks on a pad in a rural area. No one was injured, and no homes were threatened. Antero operations manager Jon Black said the nearest home was about 800 feet away.

Black said the affected area was no more than 20 feet wide.

Last year, Antero announced plans to drill up to 200 wells from 10 pads in Battlement Mesa. Some residents say the operations could trigger wildfires within the community and pose health risks such as air pollution.

“Our feeling is that this is exactly the kind of incident that the Battlement Concerned Citizens are worried about,” Devanney said.

The state requires drilling rigs to operate at least 350 feet from homes in urban residential areas. Antero’s closest well pad will be about 500 feet away from any Battlement Mesa homes, Black said.

He said he can understand residents being concerned, but he believes the company has addressed such concerns in public meetings with residents.

Devanney and others are worried about a spike in a particulate-matter reading at an air monitoring station in Rifle at the time of the fire. Black told the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board last week that at the request of state health officials, Antero will calculate the amount of pollutants the fire likely emitted.

“I think you’re going to find the results are very negligible,” he said.

Garfield County Environmental Health Manager Jim Rada could not be reached for comment Friday but reportedly has said the New Year’s Day spike and other wintertime increases could be related to use of wood-burning stoves.

Black said Antero is planning some upcoming meetings to detail its drilling plans this year for Battlement Mesa and the Rifle-Silt area.


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