Valve box focus of leak investigation

Workers excavated under a valve box Friday that has been a focus of an ongoing investigation into the source of a liquid hydrocarbons leak near Parachute Creek northwest of Parachute.

Crews also continued work on hand-drilling a new set of monitoring wells, a day after the Colorado Department of Natural Resources said three monitoring wells about 30 feet from the creek showed high levels of benzene in groundwater.

Additional wells are now being drilled within 10 feet of the creek. So far, creek water samples show no sign of contamination, authorities say.

Some 6,000 gallons of hydrocarbons have been recovered in a pipeline corridor about 50 feet from the creek.

The investigation has begun to focus on the valve box, which is for a 4-inch-diameter pipeline carrying natural gas liquids away from the nearby Parachute Creek Gas Plant, owned by Williams.

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff believe the creek recharges nearby groundwater, rather than vice versa, which is helping protect the creek from contamination.

Bob Arrington, a retired engineer in nearby Battlement Mesa and an oil and gas activist, wrote Thursday on the blog of fellow activist Peggy Tibbetts of Silt, voicing concerns over the commission’s theory.

He worries that the trench traps being used will allow benzene and other toxins to flow with the balance of groundwater unless the traps go to the bottom of the aquifer.

“This newest evaluation does not improve the situation, if anything it makes it worse as plume routing spreads and becomes harder to trace,” he wrote.

On Friday, a conservation group raised the situation on Parachute Creek in criticizing Gov. John Hickenlooper.

In a statement, Clean Water Action pointed to the leak and to Hickenlooper’s visit to tar sands operations in Canada this week.

“Instead of touring one of the world’s dirtiest sources of energy in Canada, Gov. Hickenlooper needs to get back to Colorado and take care of business here and ensure the public health is protected. It’s time for the governor to stop pretending all is well with the oil and gas industry and force it to operate in a transparent and accountable way,” the group said.

Mining threatens

paragliding mecca

DRAPER, Utah — Paragliders from around the world cherish one Utah mountaintop for its smooth, steady wind flow.

But now, they’re saying the spot is in jeopardy. That’s because a mining company that owns part of the mountain has started to plow off a chunk of ridge there.

Geneva Rock Co. says gravel from that mountain is high-quality and goes into many of Utah’s roads.

And the missing chunk worries paragliders that they will lose other, more vital pieces of Steep Mountain.

Paragliders are asking Salt Lake County to consider buying other parts of the mountain to stop the bulldozing.

But county officials say they need more time to gather data and think on the issue.

Each year, the Draper mountain hosts paragliders and hang gliders from around the world.

Night ski hikers asked to be careful


ASPEN — Aspen Skiing Co. officials are asking night ski hikers to be careful after a man broke his leg coming down Buttermilk mountain Thursday.

The man was a member of a group attending a full-moon party at the top of the resort. The parties are not organized by the ski company.

Wildfire contained near former prison


COLORADO SPRINGS — A wildfire near the former Fort Lyon prison is under control.

Authorities said Friday the fire never got close enough to threaten the building. The prison closed last year, so there are no inmates living there.

According to KKTV-TV ( ), about 120 acres were scorched, but no injuries were reported.


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