OSHA hits 3rd company in Parachute cleanup

A third company has been accused of safety violations in connection with efforts to clean up a natural gas liquids spill involving a pipeline near Parachute.

That’s according to citation documents made available Tuesday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which says actions by the three companies potentially allowed workers to be exposed to benzene and other hazardous substances.

One of the documents shows OSHA is seeking fines totaling $9,180 against W.C. Striegel Inc., a Rangely company that does pipeline work. As previously reported, OSHA also is pursuing fines of $7,854 against Bargath LLC and $10,200 against Badger Daylighting Corp.

The actions relate to the companies’ responses to the discovery this winter of a leak ultimately blamed on a burst pressure gauge on a pipeline leaving Bargath’s gas processing plant northwest of Parachute. An estimated 10,000 gallons of hydrocarbons reached soil and groundwater.

Bargath is a wholly owned subsidiary of Williams, an oil and gas processing and pipeline company based in Tulsa, Okla.

According to the citations, Badger Daylighting employees were involved in excavation work in the pipeline corridor where the leak response was centered, in order to locate contaminated groundwater and soil. W.C. Striegel employees participated in excavation work and removal of contaminated soil. The companies operated under the direction of Bargath.

A failure to follow safety procedures may have exposed the workers to benzene and other volatile organic compounds, OSHA says. Long-term benzene exposure can cause cancer and short-term exposures at high levels can lead to effects ranging from headaches and tremors to unconsciousness or even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Benzene in groundwater was detected at levels as high as 18,000 parts per billion in March. The federal standard for benzene in water used for drinking is 5 ppb.

OSHA has accused each of the companies of seven identical violations and is seeking fines against each for three violations. Agency spokesman Juan Rodriguez said OSHA sometimes will group violations together and fine for some and not others.

Among OSHA’s allegations against the companies are that they failed:

■ to inform employees, or in Bargath’s case the contractors, “of the nature, level and degree of exposure likely as a result of participation in … hazardous waste operations.”

■ to develop and implement a decontamination procedure before employees entered the work site.

■ to evaluate the site for specific hazards and determine appropriate protections for employees.

■ to perform personal air monitoring to ensure workers weren’t being exposed to hazardous substance levels exceeding exposure limits. Some workers have complained about not being provided respirators at first at the site.

■ to ensure employees received pertinent safety training.

Williams has said Bargath hasn’t agreed to or accepted OSHA’s allegations and is working with the agency to resolve them. Badger hasn’t commented and W.C. Striegel could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Peggy Tibbetts, an oil and gas industry critic living in Silt, wrote on her http://www.fromthestyx.wordpress.com blog Tuesday that the fines are a “slap on the wrist.”

“This reeks of appeasement to the public outcry over the spill. Evidently OSHA felt they had to do something. After all, their investigation was reported in the paper. This is a pittance compared to the long term costs due to environmental devastation and degradation of public health,” Tibbetts wrote.

A consent order between a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment division, Williams and Bargath provides for no fine because the leak resulted from accidental equipment failure rather than negligence. However, the department says a fine remains a possibility in the incident.


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At least OSHA is taking the risks to employees seriously. It is my opinion that CDPHE is playing lip service to their charge of protecting the environment and health of Coloradans. No fine because it was an accident? Can hardly wait for that defense to show up in traffic court.

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