Over the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard a lot of good reasons to be wary of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and natural gas deep under the earth: A rise in earthquakes, escaping methane that increases manmade global warming, tainted groundwater and toxic air pollution. By even by those dismal standards, something alarming is happening in the flood-ravaged state of Colorado tonight.
The raging rivers are tearing loose oil and gas storage tanks and ripping open pipelines, according to local activists, adding a toxic risk to the already dangerous floodwaters. Here is the latest from the newspaper at the epicenter of the flooding, the Daily Camera of Boulder, Colo.:
Inundated along with roads, bridges, houses and farms are thousands of oil and gas wells and associated condensate tanks and ponds in northeast Boulder County and southwest Weld County.
Anti-fracking activists say the industry needs to account for what types of chemicals may be contaminating soil and groundwater in the area around these wells.
Here’s some more specifics:
Lafayette-based anti-fracking activist Cliff Willmeng said he spent two days “zig-zagging” across Weld and Boulder counties documenting flooded drilling sites, mostly along the drainageway of the St. Vrain River. He observed “hundreds” of wells that were inundated. He also saw many condensate tanks that hold waste material from fracking at odd angles or even overturned.
“It’s clear that the density of the oil and gas activity there did not respect where the water would go,” Willmeng said. “What we immediately need to know is what is leaking and we need a full detailed report of what that is. This is washing across agricultural land and into the waterways. Now we have to discuss what type of exposure the human population is going to have to suffer through.”
A second report in the Denver Post is confirming that at least one pipeline has ruptured and that “[o]il drums, tanks and other industrial debris [are] mixed into the swollen river flowing northeast. County officials did not give locations of where the pipeline broke and where other pipelines were compromised.” News reports in both papers say that officials from the oil and gas industry have been unable to reach the most heavily flooded zone to inspect for damage and for potentially dangerous leaks.
Some of the best work on this is being done by local community activists and by bloggers like TXSharon, who has questioned why there has not been more coverage of the toxic threat. She posted this email alert from the group East Boulder County Action:
I see you’ve noticed the underwater wells in Weld County, Colorado. Amazing; we’ve emailed the Denver TV stations, other media, and state and local politicians. We’ve sent pictures that our members have taken. It’s like the media and politicians have been TOLD not to say anything about it. There has been no mention of the gas wells on the Denver newscasts either last night or this evening although all stations have had extensive and extended flood coverage. You can see underwater wells in the background of some of the newscast videos, and yet the reporters say absolutely nothing.
That may change in the days ahead. Right now, reporters covering the floods in Colorado are focused on the more immediate aspects of the story: The stunning images of devastation, the search for hundreds of people who’ve been reported missing, and the threat from steady rain of additional water damage. But for now, emergency response workers need to be aware and on the lookout for spilled oil and gas and the threats posed by ruptured pipelines and tanks as well as hazardous fracking fluids.
And going forward, there needs to be some hard questions asked about what the oil and gas industry did to properly secure its facilities — and the wisdom of storing and transporting fossil fuels in such a dangerous flood plain. We’ve already learned that fracking is a dangerous activity under the best of circumstances, but now to risk communities with flood-borne oil and gas is the height of folly.
To read more about the oil and gas flooding from the Daily Camera, check out: http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_24095949/colorado-flood-evacuations-broken-oil-pipeline-weld-county
The Denver Post report on possible oil and gas flooding is at: http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_24095949/colorado-flood-evacuations-broken-oil-pipeline-weld-county
Read TXSharon’s blog report at: http://www.texassharon.com/2013/09/15/is-there-a-media-blackout-on-the-fracking-flood-disaster-in-colorado/
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