Timeline of Events
from 01-07-04 forward
|Following is a chronological account of events I've personally witnessed and/or gathered accounts of from reputable sources such as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission or news organizations. I will continue to update this timeline with more detailed information as I find it, but for now, this is a fairly comprehensive account of the major and pivotal events from January 2004 (as well as ancillary information and our opinion of such issues) to today. If anyone believes any information in this summary account to be erroneous, I invite them to share their information. If the information posted here is found to be in error, I will take immediate steps to correct it and post a notice of correction within the appropriate segment.|
|January 07, 2004
|According to EnCana's lead
environmental health and safety manager, The Twin Creek well [O1E pad] on the
eastern rim overlooking Summerhawk valley "encountered a plug" and
resulted in a nearly 14 hour flare on January 7th, 2004. The clouds you see
are a hundreds-of-feet high blanket of thick smoke that enveloped the valley
and our home (this event occurred during a days-long temperature inversion).
I filmed outside for three minutes and had to go inside because my throat
was so sore. It stayed that way for a week afterward. My Mother stood
outside with me for a couple of minutes, and her throat was sore for two
weeks. The next morning,
flakes of black particulate peppered the snow all around our home and
[Review note added July
06-08]: On reviewing these events, we were told this well "encountered a
plug". But I wonder if EnCana was using 'underbalanced' technology with this
well too, and I wonder if a "plug" is really what happened. It looks a lot
like the Arbaney event which soon followed. I wonder if this well also took
a kick and perhaps also played a part in changing the geology of the area.
It's interesting that the new seep areas are just to the South West of this
well - maybe a quarter mile.
| March 09, 2004
|The Arbaney well [P3 pad] experienced a 'kick'
during under-balanced drilling operations on the afternoon of March 9th,
2004, and resulted in not only an earth-shaking experience over a mile
away at our home (which nearly knocked my mother off her feet as she stood
at the kitchen sink) but it also resulted in this flaring operation that lasted hours into
the night. We suspected that this tremendous sub-surface disturbance, which
purportedly knocked one neighbor's home (not the Dietrich home) askew of its foundation, either
exacerbated an existing fault structure or created new faulting in the area.
[of note: This well is adjacent to the former Dietrich
property and site of contamination to come. This is from a site referred to
in some capacity in official documentation as (named) the Magic]
|March 11, 2007
|This is the waste pit from the Arbaney
well operation after the kick and resulting flare. These pictures show
damage done to the pit liner which, to our knowledge, was not repaired. It
looks as though a whole quarter section of the pit liner was burned away. A
neighbor asked us to film this from her property. We were able to
stand on her berm and zoom in. That neighbor sold to EnCana and moved away months
after this event.
|March 25, 2004
||The Schwartz well 215-B [O2 pad] being fraced. This picture
shows the venting of CO2 into the atmosphere from the site.
|March 30, 2004
|" ON March 30, 2004 Jamie Adkins,
COGCC Northwest Area Engineer received Sundry notices from EnCana Oil and
Gas, Inc. (EnCana) regarding their plans for remedial cementing of two
recently drilled gas wells, the Schwartz 2-15B and the Brown 11-2C. "
"He was told that EnCan was not satisfied with the production casing cement jobs in these two wells."
"he was told that high gas pressures had been measured in the bradenhead annular spaces of both wells"
"the bradenhead pressure in the Brown 11-2C Well was approximately 300 psi."
"the bradenhead pressure in the Schwartz 2-15B Well was approximately 500 psi, but it would not blow down."
Remedial action on the Brown well was authorized. Noise and temperature logs as well as remediation were ordered on the Schwartz well.
Quoted Material Source: "Mamm Creek Gas Field - West Divide Creek Gas Seep - April 14, 2004 Update [COGCC]" http://www.oil-gas.state.co.us/Library/PiceanceBasin/WestDivide4_14_04summary.htm
Also, the following quoted material from: "COGIS - NOAV Report Operator Information Doc No: 200053120 Date Rec'd: 4/22/2004"
"The CBL showed the top of cement at approximately 4050' and the temperature survey showed the cooling at approximately 4300'. The well was left in this condition for 7 weeks with approximately 660 psig on the bradenhead and was completed without remedial cementing."
"The IADC report on the well on January 19,2004 shows a lost circulation zone at 1099' (while drilling with 8.6 ppg mud)., incapable of withstanding the bradenhead pressures it was exposed to. The well was remedial cemented on April 5, 2004. Within 8 days of the repair the gas seeps in Divide Creek had decreased."
The above statements indicate a significant loss of vertical cement and an increase in pressures.
|On April, 01, 2004, a neighbor calls to tell us he has
found bubbles in the creek which light on fire when a match is applied to
them. This event will later become known as the West Divide Creek Seep. We
immediately notify everyone we can think of who may have jurisdictional
authority over this issue: The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
/ the Colorado Dept of Public Health and Environment / The Department of
Wildlife (DOW) / even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Hazmat. DOW
responded as did a field engineer from COGCC. Though a number of agencies
were notified, the COGCC had, through a "Memorandum of Agreement", the
authority to coordinate and oversee the situation because the event involved oil and gas operations.
Given the extent of the seep, we thought it was incredible that only a
24-hr (time span) air sampling effort was conducted and no measures were taken to keep wildlife
away from the area of contaminated creek waters.
The COGCC deferred much of the monitoring and associated costs to EnCana,
who contracted much of its remedial work to Cordilleran Compliance Services,
According to the COGCC's "April 27, 2004 Update - West Divide Creek Seep Investigation":
"On April 17, 2004, EnCana's consultant, Cordilleran Compliance Services, Inc (Cordilleran) collected five 24 hour air toxics samples from locations adjacent to the West Divide Creek seep area and two adjacent residences. These samples were submitted to Air Toxics Ltd. of Folsom, California for analysis by EPA SW 846 method TO-15 using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Sample results received on April 22, 2004 showed very low air concentrations of the chemical compounds ethanol, hexane, cyclohexane, and heptane for some of the sample sites. Currently, EnCana is having the analytical results reviewed by an industrial hygienist."
From the same update cited above: "On April 20, 2004, EnCana initiated a biological study to monitor aquatic life in the West Divide Creek with Colorado Mountain College's (CMC) natural resources staff. The CMC team will spearhead he investigation. A team of residents near the seep area has joined in this effort to measure impacts, if any, to aquatic life from the seep."
[Of note: Blackcloud and I participated with other nearby residents affected by the seep, and welcomed EnCana's initiative to monitor aquatic health. The final results of this study, however, were never released]
A moratorium is placed on an area encompassing two miles around what quickly became defined by the COGCC as the "main seep" [this "main seep" site was a relatively small area generally confined to the creek waters on the Langegger property]. Eventually, new stipulations are developed and placed on drilling operations in the area, including limits on how many wells may be drilled at one time; certain reporting protocol; and limits upon how many rigs per operator are allowed within the former moratorium area. Click here to view the stipulations written and adopted as the "East Mamm Creek Area Notice to Operators (EMCA)"
According to the 04-14-04 COGCC update, structural remediation of the Schwartz 2-15B well is completed on April 05, 2004. Structural remediation of the Brown 11-2C Well is completed on April 7, 2004.
According to the "Community Guide: Understanding
Natural Gas Development" published by the Garfield County Energy Advisory
Board [EAB], 115 million cubic feet of gas escaped underground. In the same
publication, the West Divide Creek Seep is referred to as an "infrequent
|The photo to the left [04-02-04] demonstrates the flammable nature of the seep bubbles. This was an area of West Divide Creek where the seep was initially discovered and reported. To our knowledge, this area was not sampled. However, monitor wells were eventually installed nearby, and the methane detected in the samples from those wells indicated biogenic gas (that is, caused by the natural decomposition of organic matter) unrelated to the seep.|
|Bubbling in our beaver pond was detected immediately. Bubbles had never been detected before this date and weren't detected after remediation. Yet, it was determined by the COGCC and EnCana to be biogenic methane gas, and unrelated to the seep.|
[06-17-04] - Blackcloud demonstrating the release of trapped gas in our beaver pond. This flammable gas was found to be biogenic methane..
[06-17-04] - gas venting to the surface of our
another, more distant, view of our beaver pond
an established vent, bubbling nearly continuously, in our beaver pond. This vent was about the size of a quarter. [05-16-04]
|Venting gas in the Eicher/Bracken beaver pond [05-16-04] The vigor of the bubbling suggested pressure beneath,||
Officials sampling the Eicher/Bracken beaver pond [on or about 05-16-04] Sampling indicated the presence of 'biogenic' gas.
|According to COGCC document no. 01489021 ["Figure 8" / pg. 33] (which is a graphic map depiction of a soil gas survey conducted in the autumn of 2004, soil gas hydrocarbons were detected in a place referred to as "Langegger Pond 2". This pond is located, according to its placement on the referenced map, approximately 50 to 100 hundred yards +/- directly behind the kneeling individual in the photo (immediately above and right) of officials sampling our beaver pond. It is also the only area within an approximate mile of any other documented detected soil gas hydrocarbons (the other area being what became considered the "Main Seep" site). We think it is interesting that the bubbling in our beaver pond is considered unrelated to the seep when, not far away, hydrocarbons were detected at or near the "Langegger 2" pond. The methane detected in our beaver pond may have been found by both the COGCC and EnCana to be biogenic, but we feel it is only one aspect of information in a much larger and relative event. Below is a recent photo which shows the relationship between our pond area, the "Langegger 2" pond area, as well as Divide Creek.|
The above photo was taken 12-04-07. It demonstrates the proximity of the "Langegger 2" pond to our 2004 pond as well as the newly extended area.
Officials inspecting West Divide Creek [on or about 05-16-04]
A vent bubbling vigorously in shallow water. Note the hole beneath the bubbling. It is very similar to the one in our beaver pond which was not as vigorous- but bubbled nearly continuously none-the-less. Our greatest argument against the way the seep was handled was the apparent effort made by the COGCC and EnCana to delineate the extent of the seep based on limited defining characteristics.
We believed then and still believe that this effort created a misleading impression of the extent of the seep which does nothing but limit the reach of scientific inquiry and comprehensive conclusion, and, as a result, skew public opinion and mitigate anticipated policy/procedural changes. It has also, we believe, placed the public and the environment in the way of greater harm by failing to acknowledge the true characteristics of this event.
|This is the presence of what was
identified by the COGCC as a "bio-film". It appeared sporadically and
frequently all along the creek from the area which became defined and known
as the "main seep" area, across our neighbor's property to the South and along the creek on our property. Interestingly, it was not present in all
areas - even in those with very vigorous bubbling.
Another area of the creek where the seep was present but is far less vigorous
An area of the seep which is a little more vigorous
|The three photos (left and immediately
above taken on 04-01-04) demonstrate the different levels of vigor at which
the gas from the seep releases.
Interestingly, the vigor of bubbling seems to be a preliminary criteria for establishing concern on the part of both industry and the COGCC. What of potential seeps that don't bubble at all simply because they are not located in water? It seems that the area of the seep which has received the greatest acknowledgement has done so because it happened to occur in such a way that even a child can detect and question its presence.
|An area of the creek demonstrating much more vigorous bubbling.|
|Blackcloud lighting venting gas in the
mud. The gas did not only exit in the waters of West Divide Creek. On the
morning of April, 01, 2004, gas could be heard whistling up through the
dried grasses along the bank as well. [04-01-04]
Blackcloud lighting what he deemed the "Mother Vent" very near the "main seep" site on 05-19-04. A group of interested citizens and reporters organized by a local non-profit group asked for a tour of the area. It is difficult to see in the photo above, but just below the flame is a cone wrapped in duct tape which Blackcloud used to collect and direct the drifting gas. It took only 1 or 2 seconds to capture enough gas to send up and sustain a flame nearly a foot high.
|This is a spring on Langegger's property. It ran with some kind of orange substance that clung to the muddy bank. [04-16-04]||The same spring generates a proliferation of bluish, iridescent biofilm in Divide Creek. [04-16-04]|
|At the same time the seep was discovered, large patches of dead vegetation appeared on our property and the properties of three other neighbors. The photo to the right shows a series of patches on our property. Both photos were taken on 09-08-04. Several linear areas of trees died off as well. We were told by the Forest Service that the sudden and dramatic yet concentrated tree die off was attributed to beetle kill. Interestingly, it had never been a problem since we've lived here and it hasn't been a problem since. EnCana tested for soil gas but found no evidence of any release. The testing was performed in the fall of 2004, several months after the seep was remediated.|
|The COGCC investigates the seep and
issues a Notice of Alleged Violation (NOAV) which is hand-delivered to
EnCana on April 23, 2004.
EnCana responds with a letter May, 07, 2004 and again with an amended response May 18, 2004.
Responding to EnCana's response, the COGCC prepares
for an August 16th and 17th hearing. Below is part of that text, which cites
EnCana's official response to the NOAV above.
Source: COGCC August 2004 "Notice of Hearing" on Seep / Cause No. 1V / Docket No. 0408-OV-07
|Around this time COGCC is working on a
couple of other issues involving allegations of contaminated domestic water
wells: one (the former Dietrich water well) near the Arbaney P3 site
within the moratorium area; the other (Amos/Walker water well) just
outside the moratorium area to the north-west.
Below is content from the COGCC "Notice of Hearing" dated June 10, 2005 Cause No. 1V / Docket No. 0507-OV-07
"The most likely cause of the gas impacts in the
Amos/Walker water well is inadequate isolation of the Williams Fork
Formation that resulted in the higher than normal bradenhead pressures and
gas migration into the Wasatch Formation. On June 7, 2004, COGCC staff
issued a Notice of Alleged Violation ("NOAV") to EnCana for impacts to the
Amos/Walker water well. The NOAV cited alleged violations of Rule 209.,
failure to protect water-bearing formation from contamination by gas, Rule
324.A.a., failure to take precautions to prevent significant adverse
environmental impact to water resources and to prevent the unauthorized
discharge of gas, Rule 906.a., failure to contain releases immediately upon
|After a hearing in August of 2004, EnCana is found by
the COGCC to be responsible for creating the seep and is fined the largest
sum in Colorado's history - $371,200. At the
hearing it was revealed by the then Garfield County Oil and Gas Liaison that
of the dozens of complaints on file with the COGCC within a year of the
hearing date, nearly all were against EnCana.
The fine monies are used to fund a broad, regional two-phase hydro-geologic study, commissioned by Garfield County. Despite the seep contamination and other issues pointing to sensitive hydrogeology, intensive third-party study of the Divide Creek seep area is largely neglected due, apparently, to the belief that this area had already benefited form intensive sampling / data collection contracted by EnCana and, to some degree, conducted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from on-going remediation of the seep.
EnCana commissions a study of the creek in order to survey any impacts to aquatic life as a result of the seep. The COGCC looks forward to the final report, as noted below in their staff report. But the final report is never released. No further study is conducted.
From the "COGCC staff report 01-10-05": "The final Biological Monitoring and Assessment Report summary report for the West Divide Creek Seep prepared by Colorado Mountain College is expected to be completed in early January"
Click here to view the Order and a vital exhibit which we feel lends credibility to our concerns about our property and raises the degree of plausibility to a new height that the Arbaney kick and the Schwartz frac may have been related.
|September 17, 2004
|On September 17, 2004, the Schwartz
well experienced an unexplained re-pressurization. To date no further
information has come forward - unless it's deep within the 800 + official
documents on file with the COGCC, and I've simply not uncovered it.
|"On October 4, 2004 ESN identified
three (3) small gas seeps on the east side of the former Dietrich property.
The analytical results for the gas samples from the seeps show the gas is
similar to the gas sampled from wells on the P3 pad, but the seep gasses
have been altered by bacterial oxidation."
"EnCana should be found in violation of Rule 209., for failure to exercise due care in the protection of water bearing formations and to guard against contamination of fresh water by objectionable gas, Rule 324.A.a., for failure to prevent the unauthorized discharge of gas into a water resource and Rules 906.a. and b., for failure to control and contain the release of gas immediately upon discovery and to notify the Director of a gas release which impacted the waters of the state on the Magic 10-1 Well..."
"On January 5, 2005 Dr. Anthony Gorody submitted a report to EnCana and the COGCC staff regarding the P3 well pad and the investigation of the surrounding area. Based on the composition and isotopic analysis results, he concluded that the Magic 10-1 well is the most likely source of the gas that has impacted the former Dietrich water well and caused the nearby surface seeps. COGCC staff agrees with Dr. Gorody's conclusions that the water well has been impacted by gas from one or more of the gas wells on the P3 well pad."
Source: Notice of Hearing: Cause No. 1V / Docket No. 0507-OV-O6
and from the COGCC "Monthly Staff Report 10-25-04": "On October 8, 2004 COGCC staff issued an NOAV to EnCana requiring remedial actions to mitigate the gas impact to this water well."
|According to the "Update on West
Divide Creek Gas Seep (Joel Fox)" segment of the "Garfield County Energy
Advisory Board (EAB) Meeting Thursday April 07, 2005":
"Mr. Fox reviewed depictions of present-day & subsurface geography. He described how faults formed during the Post-Eocene period. Mr. Fox described how EnCana speculates how their drill in West Divide Creek passed through the fault that was connected to a seep in West Divide Creek, causing the gas seep. Mr. Fox stated that EnCana now had a new cementing process, and hopes to prevent and avoid any further issues during drilling. Discussions followed.
further, from the same document:
", EnCana Environmental Coordinator, gave an update on the environmental aspects of the Divide Creek Seep. [she] gave a power point presentation. Topics included: studies conducted regarding effects on ground water, environmental investigation activities, benzene concentrations, benefits of air sparges, results of Soil Gas Survey in fall of '04, study conducted by CMC on Benthic Macro Invertebrates sampling, and other current & ongoing sampling activities. [she] shared that there have been no human health impacts or impacts to aquatic life from the seep. The impacted area is limited to 1.2 acres."
[Of note: the EnCana Environmental Coordinator noted above (name replaced with title and [she]), had, during the sampling effort, been an employee of Cordilleran Compliance Services, Inc. - the company contracted by EnCana to conduct much of the sampling.
|May 2, 2005
|In a meeting with Garfield County
Commissioners in May, 2005, Joel fox is noted as having said:
"After the well was drilled and cemented, the cement circulated to the surface and things went fine, and then sometime after the primary cement job, that cement failed and allowed gas to enter the well bore, enter this fault and travel up that fault plain up into Divide Creek and charge the seep. So the important thing when you hear about it in the newspapers, the actual seep is a geologic feature that's been there for millions of years, the Swartz well actually charged that network or framework of faults and fractures."
"Commissioner Houpt - you say we'll probably never see this scenario again, are you saying there probably isn't a network of faults in this area, because there is a lot of activity going on."
[Note: the statement immediately above was a question asked of Mr. Fox by Commissioner Houpt.]
"Joel Fox - no, there's a lot of faulting and fractures in the Piceance Baisis because all you have to do is drive along the Interstate and see the dramatic geological features. The fact that you have a fault network that's connected to the surface is pretty rare. There's a lot of faults and fractures beneath the surface but circumstances of intercepting a fault while drilling with a bore hole that's 6 inches in diameter, to intercept that fault, if I tried to do it there's probably no way I could, but all the events in the network to intercept a fault that's connected to a surface feature probably will not occur again, but if it does, and it could, then this new monitoring process and our new procedure should catch it."
From: Board of County Commissioners - 2005 "Proceedings of the Garfield County Board of Commissioners Garfield County, Colorado"
What is interesting here is Mr. Fox doesn't mention the tremendous kick that the Arbaney well took on March 09, 2004. We think and will always think that this event may have exacerbated existing faults or created new ones which in fact created a network of subsurface to surface faults in the area (the effects of this event were felt over a mile away at our home). To our knowledge no new seismic data was gathered after that earth-shaking event. Further, Mr. Fox admits how fractured this area is. The West Divide Creek Seep happened in a canyon/valley where the Wasatch formation is exposed. That alone suggests an increased chance for subsurface communication with the surface. We'd not seen seepages here before EnCana showed up and shook the earth and continues to do so by fracturing the ground in order to stimulate production. The fragile geology of this area makes it easier for industry to deny its devastating impact to citizens, their homes and the environment. We believe strongly the county, the state and the BLM should intervene in this continued devastation and prevent drilling here - at least until industry is capable of doing so in a more technologically compatible and therefore safe way. Instead, permitting authorities have provided - through a lack of sufficient oversight - an avenue for irresponsible development.
In Mr. Fox's statement above he uses quite a lot of speculative language in his direct address to Mrs. Houpt. Words like "probably", "could" and "should". If we are supposed to be comforted by these vague assurances, we are not.
This has been our argument all along. By possibly failing to, in our opinion, properly characterize the seep event including events which led up to it and may have complicated it, an incomplete picture has been painted depicting safety where there - in our opinion - exists a great amount of under-acknowledged vulnerability.
Once again, we are left to depend upon a corporation who in the past has failed to voluntarily report polluting events. We are left, once again, to report what we see if we happen to see it - only to have it potentially constrained within the insufficiently constructed and artificially imposed confines of selective scientific recognition. And we are left, once again, to fend for ourselves in an increasingly dangerous game of "wait and see" energy policy politics.
Yes, natural gas burns cleaner than other forms of fossil fuels. But there's an entirely other side of this dirty energy and the very dirty way it is brought to market.
|COGCC grants Bill Barrett Corp.
permission to drill 20 wells within the moratorium area
Source: Post Independent - "EnCana wants state to lift drilling moratorium near Silt" [01-06-06]
|February 9, 2007
||The "East Mamm Creek Area Notice to Operators (EMCA)" which had been adopted by official COGCC hearing on April 25, 2006 and which was supported by Garfield County, became active. This Notice provided various stipulations for new operations in the East Mamm Creek Area. Click here to view the Notice and map of affected area.|
|From: Report of the Commission /
Administrative Order by Consent / Findings / Cause No. 1V / Order No. 1V-297
[dated march, 2006]
"21. On March 20, 2005 Dr. Anthony Gorody submitted a report to EnCana and the COGCC staff presenting the results of the second soil gas survey of the P3 well pad and surrounding area. Based upon additional data and further evaluation he occluded that the remedial cementation of production wells at EnCana's P3 pad appeared to have successfully shut off gas flow (which, in his opinion, originated from shallow gas sands in the Wasatch Formation) that was migrating towards the surface, including the gas that had impacted the former Dietrich water well. Dr. Gorody believes, as shown in figures 22, 23, 24, and 25 of the January 27, 2005 report, that based on the higher hydrocarbon gases, the gases in the former Dietrich water well and those at the C5 soil gas seep are clearly distinguishable from bradenhead gases at the P3 pad and from the Williams Fork production gas. The COGCC staff agrees that the flow of the gas that was impacting the former Dietrich water well and causing the gas seeps on the P3 well pad and at the C5 and two other unnamed seeps located on the east side of the former Dietrich property appears to have been eliminated; however, COGCC staff believes that based upon the higher hydrocarbon gases (ethane and propane) the gas in the former Dietrich water well is indistinguishable from the gases analyzed from the Magic Wells and Cretaceous Williams Fork formation gas produced by gas wells in the area, and thus disagrees with Dr. Gorody's conclusion that the source of gas is the Wasatch Formation."
then, from: COGCC Record of Proceeding March 20, 2006:
"Order No. 1V-297, Garfield County: Approves an Administrative Order by Consent finding EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. in violation of Rules 209. and 324A.a., failure by to prevent the contamination of fresh water by gas, failure to prevent a significant adverse environmental impact to water, to protect public health, safety and welfare, for the former Dietrich water well located in the SE1/4 SE1/4 of Section 3, Township 7 South, Range 92 West, 6th P.M."
and further, regarding the alleged contamination of the Amos/Walker domestic water well...
"Order No. 1V-298, Garfield County: Approves an Administrative Order by Consent finding EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc. in violation of Rules 209. and 324A.a., failure by EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. to prevent the contamination of fresh water by gas, failure to prevent a significant adverse environmental impact to water, to protect public health, safety and welfare, for the Amos/Walker water well located in the SE1/4 of Section 33, Township 6 South, Range 92 West, 6th P.M."
|From an article in the Post
Independent: "At a meeting in Glenwood Springs Monday, the COGCC fined
EnCana $77,400 and $99,400 respectively for contamination of the Dietrich and
Amos/Walker wells with gas from its nearby natural gas wells"
Doug Hock, an EnCana spokesman was quoted in the article as saying: "While we don't agree with the findings, we want to avoid going through extended hearings (with the COGCC)"
The article goes on to say that Garfield County attorney, Don DeFord said the county commissioners were disappointed with the amount of the fines and believed they should have been higher.
COGCC Director Brian Macke was then quoted in the following response: "The COGCC staff consider those to be significant fines,"
Source: Post Independent - "EnCana fined for
contaminating water wells" [03-21-06]
|The COGCC lifts the moratorium
at EnCana's request.
The COGCC establishes an area 3 3/4 miles long and a mile wide extending from the seep in a northwesterly direction and in which drillers must exercise special precaution. This set of stipulations was adopted April, 2006 and became active in February 2007.
EnCana plans to frac and "complete" Schwartz well - that is, subject it to a treatment intended to crack open surrounding tight-sand rock strata and increase gas production to the well bore.
It is generally known that the Schwartz site represents the shallowest point of the formation, which is why part of the Wasatch formation is exposed in Summerhawk valley. This creates not only easier access to closer resource, but a much greater likelihood for fracture and unintentional seepage as the area is an outcrop - a geologic attribute known to produce a greater likelihood of seepage (lust like the Fruitland seep that occurred in La Plata county).
In a Post Independent article dated [04-26-07] "COGCC lifts drilling moratorium south of Silt", then Director of the COGCC, Brian Macke is quoted as saying: "The (COGCC) staff determined (part) of East Mamm Creek... very likely has a subsurface fault trend through that area," and "The staff recommended allowing drilling to go on but have added drill requirements".
|In the early summer of 2007 EnCana
secured two former state employees from the Colorado Department of Public
Health and Environment (CDPHE). These were two folks familiar with air and
water quality which I had spoken to during the height of the seep, and both
seemed knowledgeable and concerned about the event -- though the CDPHE, at
the time, did not, to our knowledge, visit the site and was simply
coordinating with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission through a
Memorandum of Agreement.
Sometime in the summer of 2007 (or perhaps 2006) the sparge equipment at the main seep site overheated and failed. This resulted in Benzene detected in the surface waters of West Divide Creek. We were never notified. Our domestic water source is located approximately 1500' down stream. To our knowledge, no other downstream water users (such as the town of Silt, Colorado) were notified either. EnCana has apparently corrected the equipment situation.
Sometime in the Summer of 2007, the Schwartz well was 'shut in' - that is, 'plugged' and taken out of production so as to accommodate equipment intended to drill nine new COGCC permitted wells from this site.
EnCana is made aware that bubbles have appeared in a newly extended area of our beaver pond - though there is appears to be no evidence of gas seepage in any of the other formerly identified seep areas (at least where the seep was originally discovered. Other areas - such as the Main Seep site are too active with sparging - or the pumping of air through hoses in the creek - to detect new activity). We continue visually monitoring the area.
|October 10, 2007
||On October 10, 2007, on the 11-2A
(O2E) Schwartz pad, EnCana experienced a massive 500psi gas kick -
matching that of the 2004 Schwartz blowout.
[Note: This entry was added to the timeline in late March 2009. We only learned of this event through our own search of drilling records. When I typed the entry immediately below, we were clueless as to this huge gas kick event and the COGCC sure didn't volunteer any information.]
|October 23, 2007
||By Autumn, there appeared to be an
increase in bubbling activity in our pond (a newly created area adjacent to
the old beaver pond). On 10-23-07, a COGCC
environmental staffer views the site, observes the surface venting and notes
that the waters should be sampled. This staff person informed me that he was
not aware that drilling activity had resumed on the Schwartz site.
[NOTE added 03-27-09: We only learned much later, that on October 10, 2007, on the 11-2A (O2E) Schwartz pad EnCana experienced a massive 500psi gas kick - matching that of the 2004 Schwartz blowout. This had been reported to the COGCC. A "Notice to Remediate" indicates that some kind of remedial action was required on this same well on 01-15-08]
|Samples are collected on 11-02-07 by EnCana-contracted Cordilleran. The
conclusion is that the gas is biogenic in nature - that is, caused by the
decomposition of organic matter. These are the same results found during
bubbling activity in the other area of our beaver pond in 2004. We stress to both COGCC and EnCana that these
bubbles are not normal activity. They've not appeared here previously, since
pond construction, and they are only present in a certain area. There is no
bubbling in other pond areas - though the pond is approximately 200 yards
long by as much as 50 yards wide in places. We stress that we believe there
is no way decomposition is going on at such a rate as to produce so much
bubbling. We stress that this activity mirrors that which was observed in
our pond back in 2004, at the height of the seep (and further stress that that
activity ceased after remediation of the Schwartz well and has not returned).
We also stress that this activity may be an early indicator that a new
seep has occurred or is recurring since the only other activity that seems
to be coinciding with this event is the plugging of the Schwartz well.
Perhaps, we suggest, re-pressurization of the seep is occurring.
In our opinion, the naturally fractured subsurface region of the West Divide Creek area where seeping has and continues to occur is too fragile to withstand safe resource extraction. Its canyon outcropping allows for too great an opportunity for contamination by a resource which is recovered using a subsurface "fracturing" or "fracing" procedure - further disturbing the fragile subsurface geology.
This fragile geology should cause industry and those who regulate it to stand back and approach it in a far more cautious manner than has been and continues to be demonstrated. Instead, it appears clear to us at least, that this land's unique characteristics are being used as an excuse to escape accountability. In its heated pursuit of the pot of gold beneath this geologically diverse and biologically rich tapestry, it is easy for industry to claim pre-existence and abscond from cause. Narrowly constructed scientific inquiry - far beyond the affordable reach of most landowners and even the state of Colorado continues to lend carefully structured support to industry's devastating impacts.
We are asking that permitting authorities give due weight to the likelihood that fracing activities may exacerbate existing faults or create new fault structures which could disrupt quiet pockets of gas that have not yet reached the surface but for which industry activities could provide a path of surface expression. Particularly those pockets which, through inappropriate drilling activities in recent years, may have migrated nearer to the surface.
We contend now and always have that this area has not - in the 19 + years we've lived here - been polluted by the presence of Wasach methane seeping to the surface. Only since EnCana began drilling operations here have these issues arisen. For those who wish to doubt such a claim, there is a reasonable way to prove even long-term seep expression through core sampling and the analytical examination of microbial skeletal remains. We hope in earnest that the COGCC will take responsible steps to assure the health and safety of the public and the environment by curtailing development in an area which still bares the scars of prior neglect and is clearly and desperately in need of protection now.
For a fuller account of our position and arguments against what appears to be the application of selective science to this complex issue, please click here.
|October, 2007||Director of the COGCC, Brian Macke, Resigns|
|November 18, 2007
||Bubbling activity in the pond has increased even more, to the point that multiple releases are visible even in a still photo (note small rippled areas on surface) [11-. These waters were sampled 11-02-07. Results from that sampling indicate the presence of 'biogenic' gas. Once again, the predictable timing, frequency and vigor of the release seem to indicate pressure beneath the surface. As of this date, COGCC has not sampled the waters, though indicated they should. A phone call and e-mail were sent 11-26-07 to the COGCC to remind them of the previous concern and intent to sample. Both of these photos are dated 11-18-07|
|December 01, 2007
|In a December, 01, 2007 article "Civil
leader: Gas panelists lack expertise" by the Grand Junction Sentinel,
Craig Meis, Mesa County Commissioner raises serious concerns over a lack of
technical experience on the part of new appointees to the Colorado Oil and
Gas Conservation Commission - which has been recently restructured to
provide for a greater balance of perspective on issues that reach beyond the
technical aspects of resource extraction to consider impacts of energy
development on public safety and the environment. Despite a
governor-appointed board comprised of individuals with significant industry
experience - including former or current industry employees, the article
quotes Mr. Meis, who owns Cordilleran Compliance Services, as saying, "the
old board had no conflicts of interest.". It was and is Cordilleran
Compliance Services who is contracted by EnCana to conduct the sampling of
the seep area.
|December 06, 2007
||COGCC sampled the pond waters from a couple of sites within the extended area of the beaver pond complex on our property. Though the ponds were covered in ice, the sampling official seemed to feel that they were able to collect a good sample. I was only able to observe the sampling from a significant distance - too far to ascertain details of the effort.|
|January 15, 2008
|EnCana filed a "Notice to Remediate" with the COGCC indicating that some kind of remedial work was required by EnCana on the Schwartz 11-2A (O2E) Pad. To date (03-27-09) we have been unable to receive any information on this event from the COGCC which would indicate what the work was and why it was required..|
|April 06, 2008
||Snow melt has finally come and gone -
and runoff has yet to start. We continue to monitor the increased bubbling
and on April 06, 2008 detect and film 8 minutes of continuous gas expression
in the beaver pond (before we finally ran out of film). COGCC was notified.
No interest was expressed in our observation. Please see
|April 14, 2008
||Today we noted and photographed
several vent holes in the silt at the old beaver pond and also documented
some thin rivulets of blue biofilm. COGCC was notified. No interest was
expressed in our observation. Please see Week 30.
|June 28, 2008
|The beaver pond has washed
away and revealed what appears to have been the source of the bubbling all
On a summer walkabout, we
noted an approximately 30 foot long seep area along the bank of West Divide
Creek, near the same area as the vent holes and blue biofilm noted earlier.
The seep was orange and shared identical characteristics to the seep which
began in 2004 - the focus of which centered around Mr. Langegger's property.
Two black seeps were also noted, though perhaps 30 feet to the North
and East of the orange seep area. The COGCC main line seemed out of
service both Saturday and Sunday, and I could not reach the Parachute field
office either day. By Sunday I decided to leave a message on an inspector's
cell phone and notified the EPA National Response Center. Please see
Week 40 / Week 41
/ Week 43 and/or for a comprehensive account:
Divide Creek Seep 2008
Orange gunk similar to that found seeping in association with a spring on Mr. Langegger's property in 2004. [06-28-08]
A black seep we've never seen before [06-28-08]
Biolfilm associated with the presence of the orange gunk last seen in such profusion on Langegger's property (site of the Divide Creek Seep 2004) in 2004. [07-03-08]
|Biofilm associated with another area of this seep but adjacent to running water (the little grey thin on the lower right is my camera cord) [07-11-08]|
A white crusty substance cotes the ground where liquid (presumably water) seems to be flowing across the ground near new seep area. [07-11-08]
The substance appears to be attacking the sandstone and deteriorating it when the two come into contact. [07-11-08] The COGCC has expressed no interest in sampling this caustic and corrosive-appearing material, though we worry that if this phenomenon is associated with drilling activities - this substance may be related to fracing chemicals designed to interact with sands in a way which increases production of gas.
The same or a similar substance surrounds a plant [07-11-08]
This appears to be one of the areas where the seep has found exit - though it is dry now. [07-17-08]
The same or a similar substance decimates a dead piece of plant stalk. 07-17-08
|View a larger version of the West
Divide Creek area by clicking here
||View a larger version of the Drilling
area with fault lines and see where EnCana plans to drill 40 new wells by
Divide Creek Then - 2004
[More Seep Photos]
Divide Creek 'Now' - 2007 [prior to June 28, 2008 seep event]
Divide Creek Seep 2008 [The June 28th Event]
The COGCC Order and vital exhibit showing faulting and predicting flow from pressurized fluids - relative to the 2004 Divide Creek seep.
On-Line Database of COGCC Records
The COGCC maintains an on-line list of 817 documents (as of 11-30-07) related to the West Divide Creek Seep. These include official reports, letters from intervening parties, photographs, articles, etc. Click here to view a list of these documents, their corresponding identification numbers/titles, and to obtain instructions on how to navigate the COGCC website in order to view these documents.
This document and map demonstrate special stipulations imposed by the COGCC regarding the former West Divide Creek Seep Moratorium Area
View a panorama of Summerhawk Valley
Main links within this site
Fracked Frank's Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracing / Fracking) Primer
Divide Creek Seep 2008 - An astonishing and on-going chronology of total regulatory failure and silenced investigation.
Updates Only a year after the 2004 blowout and the resulting moratorium was lifted, EnCana proceeds to drill 80 new wells within a mile of my home. By January 2012, all but 9 are in... and so is a new seep...
Mean Energy - Sure, industry brings a few jobs to impacted regions, but they bring a heck of a lot else. See what can happen to individuals, the environment, communities and economic diversity when the boom hits.
Site Map - The sitemap is strongly recommended since this site has been added to like a poorly planned remodel... which is what -- under the pressure of continuous impact and adaptation -- it has become.
All contents of this site, unless
otherwise noted are copyrighted by Lisa Bracken, 2007-2012 (present). All rights are