Fracking and flooding may be toxic combination for Colorado

Sept. 18, 2013

Just when it looked like things might be improving for flood-ravaged Colorado, Accuweather is reporting that the state may now be facing another catastrophe, water contamination caused by flood water flowing into and over the thousands of natural gas and oil wells and drilling sites that pepper the northeastern Colorado landscape. At least 1,000 wells have already been reported as flooded, according to several sources. Water treatment and sewage sites have also been deluged.

"Once those chemicals hit flood water, they get across a large swath of the landscape," Gary Wockner, Colorado program director for Clean Water Action, is quoted as saying in a press release from AccuWeather."Our big concern is oil and gas and fracking chemicals in the water. We have seen photos of oil slicks on top of the floodwaters and we are continuing to monitor all of the flooding and cleanup efforts. Oil, gas and fracking chemicals are poisonous to people and animals, and could pollute farms and drinking water supplies."

According to the Denver Post, Colorado's rich Denver-Julesburg Basin is buried in floodwaters. "The scale is unprecedented," Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources,” is quoted as saying. "We will have to deal with environmental contamination from whatever source. Any pollution from oil fields likely will be mixed with a stew of agricultural pesticides, sewage, gasoline from service stations and other contaminants.”

Encana Corp., a Canadian energy firm, has been forced to shut 99 of its 1,200 wells in the state, according to NBC News.com.  It is one of several companies which have already started inspecting well and drilling sites to repair and limit the effects of the storm.

“Pictures and videos that cropped up on anti-fracking sites and in local news outlets in recent days show inundated oil pads, flooded wells, and, in some cases, overturned tanks and ruptured lines. Many were reportedly captured in Weld County, an area northeast of Denver and Boulder that was hit hard by the flooding,” reported CBS News yesterday.

Until the water recedes, no one can accurately access the multiple impacts of the flooding, but memories of other “virtually impossible” environmental catastrophes triggered by natural disasters have been newly awakened.  Fracking operations everywhere may feel the cold rush of these flood waters, even on high ground. 

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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