Garfield County commissioners, public hear results of 9 year study after regulator determined Encana contaminated West Divide Creek with methane and benzene

Garfield County commissioners, public hear water study today by John Stroud, November 11, 2013, Post Independent
Results of a nearly nine-year-long study to help determine the potential impacts of natural gas development on groundwater south of Silt will be presented to Garfield County commissioners and the public on Tuesday. The three-phase study has been in the works since 2004 after a faulty gas well operated by Encana Oil and Gas was determined to be the source of methane gas that was bubbling up in West Divide Creek. However, the latest study determined that there is a significant amount of naturally occurring biogenic methane contributing to the methane gas that has been showing up in domestic water wells in the larger Mamm Creek region.

[Numerous companies, including Encana, are specifically targeting and hydraulically fracturing coals, sands and shales for “naturally occurring biogenic methane” ]

That’s according to a summary report on the Phase III findings from hydrologic consultants Tetra Tech out of Louisville. The first two phases of study was paid for in part using funds from a $371,200 Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission fine levied against Encana as a result of the faulty well. Garfield County paid for the Phase III study. “This study is an attempt to improve understanding of the nature of groundwater chemistry in the vicinity of the installed monitoring wells,” according to an executive summary of the Phase III Hydrogeologic Study of the Mamm Creek area.

The study used three pairs of wells, one about 400 feet deep and the other about 600 feet deep. That’s roughly 200 to 400 feet deeper than the typical domestic water well. Four water quality samples were taken from each well during the course of the third phase, as well as one from a nearby residential well, according to the report. Concentrations of biogenic methane, which results naturally from shallow microbial activity, was detected in the shallower wells, according to the findings. The deeper wells contained concentrations of what appears to be thermogenic gas, the type sought by energy companies and which comes from geologic formations deep in the ground, according to the report summary. The report indicates that it’s unlikely the thermogenic methane observed in the deeper wells is the source of the shallow biogenic methane. The carcinogen benzene was also found in several of the monitoring wells, though mostly below the threshold of 5 parts per billion considered safe for drinking water. One sample did exceed that level, at 5.3 ppb, according to the study. [Emphasis added]

Agenda of the meeting and links to reports

[Refer also to:

Journey of the Foresaken

USGS Survey: Methane in water near Silt found most detections near where EnCana received record fine from the regulator for contaminating creek with benzene and methane

Alberta firm eyes Ontario’s untapped biogenic shale gas

A Primer for Understanding Canadian Shale Gas (includes biogenic methane) – Energy Briefing Note by Canada’s National Energy Board

EPA fracking findings in Wyoming relevant in Colorado disclosure debate; Garfield County resident cites parallels between two EnCana cases

Evaluation of Phase II Hydrogeologic Study for Garfield County

Shallow Biogenic Shales in Canada, Money and Brains Stealth Venture and Canyon Technical Services partner to answer unconventional fracturing challenges

Unconventional Shallow Biogenic Gas Systems

Alleged Violations of the rules and regulations of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) by EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. Cause No. 1V, Order No. 1V-276 before the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission of the State of Colorado, September 16, 2004. 29
The COGCC staff hand-delivered a Notice of Alleged Violation (“NOAV”) to EnCana on April 23, 2004. …The NOAV cited Rule 209., failure to prevent the contamination of fresh water by gas, Rule 301., failure to notify the Director when public health or safety is in jeopardy, Rule 317.i., failure to pump cement 200’ above the top of the shallowest producing horizon, Rule 324A., impacts to water quality and Rule 906.b.(3), failure to report a release to the Director.

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