Williams subsidiary fined over stormwater violations

A subsidiary of the company at the center of an investigation into a major hydrocarbon leak near Parachute Creek was hit with a $275,000 penalty in November for stormwater violations that threatened the same watershed.

The Colorado Water Quality Control Division imposed the civil fine against Bargath, LLC, part of Tulsa-based Williams, a pipeline and gas processing company, in connection with work on the Crawford Trail Pipeline right of way. The fine was part of an agreement the agency and Bargath reached in August to resolve the matter.

Williams also owns pipelines in a corridor where about 6,000 gallons of hydrocarbons were recovered adjacent to Parachute Creek northwest of Parachute following the discovery of contaminated soil last month. An investigation has focused in part on a valve set for a natural gas liquids line owned by Williams. According to the enforcement documents on the stormwater matter, the penalty arises from a construction project that began in 2008 and involved disturbing 116 acres of land. The division had granted a stormwater permit allowing discharges into Parachute Creek and downstream into the Colorado River.

A 2010 inspection by the division resulted in findings that Bargath violated the permit conditions by having a deficient or incomplete stormwater management plan, failing to use proper stormwater management practices and failing to properly perform and/or document inspections of its management system.

As a result, the division said, systems such as water bars and straw wattles were not in place to prevent sediment and soil from going off steep slopes and into the unnamed tributary of Parachute Creek. One area was a 35-acre site where there was blasting of a high wall cut, and a 50 percent grade, and it lacked protections such as straw wattles on the face of the slope, the division found.

“They just basically destroyed the hillside and it was a pretty serious violation,” said Steve Gunderson, director of the division.

After the division’s inspection, Bargath told the state it had to wait until the following spring to be able to put proper stormwater measures in place, which it completed by the following June. Under the consent order, Bargath doesn’t admit to any of the factual or legal determinations made by the division.

Gunderson said he didn’t know if any sediment got into the tributary.

Asked about a potential pattern of problems involving Williams, Gunderson said the stormwater incident, while serious, is “totally unrelated” to the current one.

He noted that there has been a history of stormwater violations by energy companies in the watershed, including one that resulted in a “mudsicle” of frozen sediment up one tributary.


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