Source of sickening spring seep still unknown

Despite intensive efforts, investigators have yet to find the exact source of oil and gas operations that contaminated a spring northwest of Parachute, causing a man to become ill last May.

The delay is becoming frustrating for Ned Prather and fellow family members, said their attorney, Richard Djokic.

“On behalf of my clients, they are as you can well imagine very anxious to resolve this matter, find the source and get on with life,” he told the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Monday in Denver.

It’s been disturbing to Prather not only for health reasons, but economically, Djokic said.

“This has been very disruptive to his outfitting business,” Djokic said.

Prather suffered irritation to his throat, esophagus and stomach when he visited his cabin and drank water tainted with cancer-causing benzene May 30.

Oil and gas regulators issued notices of alleged violation against Williams Production RMT, Marathon Oil Co., Petroleum Development Corp. and Nonsuch Natural Gas, based on the proximity of their wells to the cabin. Testing of water-monitoring wells in the area has yet to prove that any of the companies is responsible for the contamination.

Tests results also showed benzene in a second spring in the area. That led to OXY USA WTP LP being cited as a suspected source of the second spring’s contamination.

The two springs continue to be contaminated. Tests have at least led state officials to conclude the cabin spring water is tainted by oil and gas condensates. The second spring is contaminated by production water associated with drilling.

The involved companies have cooperated with the state in the investigation, which among other things has entailed extensive water and soil sampling, along with reporting of data from area wells.

The state found a dead elk calf in the area examined, but it turned out to have died of natural causes. Prather has found other dead animals such as chipmunks that he thinks may have consumed the spring water. The state has declined to have them tested because the water’s contamination levels aren’t considered sufficient to be toxic to animals.


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