State reviews drilling waste proposal for De Beque area

A state agency is undertaking a technical review of a Utah company’s proposal for an 804-acre oil and gas waste disposal facility southeast of De Beque. A second company is continuing its efforts to revive operations at another such site south of town.

At the request of Mesa County, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is considering a certificate of designation application by RN Industries of Roosevelt, Utah, for a facility at 47901 V Road, five miles southeast of De Beque. The company proposes to handle oil and gas exploration and production waste through a phased project that ultimately could include 27 evaporation ponds covering 281 acres and with a capacity of 3,232 acre feet of fluids. It also would include two land farms covering a total of 10 acres for treating petroleum-contaminated soil so the soil can be reused, and a system that uses microbes to consume hydrocarbons to reduce volatile organic compounds enough to meet air quality standards.

The state will evaluate the proposal for compliance with regulations and laws designed to protect health and the environment. It will present its findings to Mesa County commissioners, who will ultimately decide whether to approve the certificate of designation.

The county approved a conditional use permit for a first phase of the project a few years ago.

“This is a second step” in the approval process, but it would apply to all phases, Bob Peterson, a CDPHE environmental health specialist in Grand Junction, said of the current review.

Chris Chapman of RN Industries said the company also is continuing to seek an air quality permit and resolution of a Bureau of Land Management road access issue, and is waiting for the local oil and gas development market to come back.

“We’re a long ways off from where we were in 2006-07,” he said of local drilling activity.

Black Hills Exploration has begun doing some drilling in the De Beque area, but Chapman said that’s been at a pretty small scale.

“One company helps but that doesn’t create the market,” he said.

He estimated that the site might employ five people once its first phase opens, and 10 to 15 when it’s fully operating.

Black Mountain site

Meanwhile, Greenleaf Environmental Services of Orem, Utah, is continuing to work on reopening the Black Mountain Disposal site south of De Beque after acquiring it following bankruptcy proceedings, said Linda Dannenberger, Mesa County’s planning director.

“They’re trying desperately to open it but they keep running into regulation issues,” she said.

Greenleaf has a county conditional use permit but it may need revisions, she said.

Charles Johnson, manager of CDPHE’s Solid Waste and Materials Management Program, said Greenleaf has indicated it wants to go forward with plans first developed by the prior owner, and the state is awaiting the company’s final submittal of those plans. Dannenberger said she believes the company is continuing to pursue air permits as well.

Under prior ownership, Black Mountain faced legal and enforcement action by the state, which believes older evaporation ponds contributed to groundwater contamination, and dealt with complaints that a sprinkling system used to enhance evaporation was so big that spray was reaching neighbors. The plans developed but were not implemented by the prior owner before bankruptcy called for operating the facility more safely and addressing some of the historical contamination, Johnson said.

He said Greenleaf has been “working very proactively and cooperatively with us” to understand the regulations and meet county requirements for running a safe facility.

Company’s history

Peterson said the RN Industries site is in a “moderately remote” location. It’s his understanding that two homes are closer than a half-mile away. The state has a minimum setback of a half-mile from residents for such facilities, but waives that restriction if a county grants a conditional use permit for a facility closer to homes, as Mesa did for RN Industries.

“RN Industries has two facilities in Rio Blanco County that have been operated fairly well. … They are a pretty well-received owner/operator,” Peterson said.

Dannenberger said one issue the company has been dealing with is trying to get BLM approval for road widening for truck use.

Said Chapman, “The BLM road was an issue and still is an issue. There are several things we’re working on. It just takes time to get through.”

RN Industries’ project submittal is available for public review at CDPHE’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Office at 222 S. 6th St., Room 232, in Grand Junction, or at the Mesa County Planning Department, 200 S. Spruce St., Grand Junction. Information is also available from Bob Peterson at 248-7151, or Randy Price at the county Planning Department, 244-1759.  Peterson is accepting written public comments through July 1.


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