Toxic Spills Inevitable?


VIDEO:  20,000 gallons of fracking waste spilled in Youngstown, OH

Thousands of Gallons of Pollution Recovered From Colorado Oil and Gas Spill (source: Truthout, 3/24/13)

No Fracking.Kaye Fissinger, a supporter of her town’s new fracking ban, holds a sign promoting the ban at the site of a planned oil well, in Longmont, Colorado, November 21, 2012. (Photo: Matthew Staver / The New York Times)

Is Fracked Contamination Inevitable and Unpreventable?

Efforts to reach compromises between the gas drilling industry and environmentalists have emphasized strict regulations, vigilant oversight, and adequate enforcement of rules.

But even when a village or town enacts a moratorium or an outright ban on fracking, the environment of the community may remain in jeopardy because of irresponsible (some say inevitable) actions by gas company workers (“roughnecks”) who ignore rules and regulations — often with impunity because their employers do not accept responsibility for spills, and government enforcement and penalties may be minimal or non-existent.

Truthout cites the example of ongoing cleanup at the site of an underground spill of thousands of gallons of fracking pollution near the town of Parachute, threatening Parachute Creek, which flows into the Colorado River.

State officials say that the creek has remained safe because of special barriers erected to prevent leakage of pollutants into the waterway.

And cleanup has progressed. Colorado officials report that about 6,000 gallons of of pollutants have been recovered, along with more than  100, 000 gallons of contaminated water.

Origin of the Spill and Response to Contamination Alert

The spill site is near a natural gas plant operated by Williams Energy.  Another company, WPX Energy, operates underground oil and gas pipelines in the area. Although both Williams and WPX are helping to contain the spill, neither company will take responsibility, publicly reveal the source of the spill, or identified the type of hydrocarbons contaminating the area.
Nor have they responded to inquiries

The cleanup began after Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued notices of “alleged violation” to Williams and WPX and ordered them to contain the spill and submit a cleanup plan to regulators.Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said that excavation of a large pipe in the area had begun and that workers are “proceeding with care and deliberation.”

Are Spills Inevitable?

A local cattleman told The Denver Post that such spills are common in the area and often remain secret, and state records show that the oil and gas industry is responsible for hundreds of spills each year.

The environmental group Earthjustice reports that at least eight fracking-related accidents primarily contamination of wells, have occurred. The Colorado Wildlife Federation stated that the spill might have been detected earlier with better monitoring.

“This is one more strong argument for keeping oil and gas wells and related infrastructure a safe distance from waterways,” said Suzanne O’Neill, the organization’s executive director. “Regulators pledged to form a stakeholders’ group to develop standards for riparian setbacks a while ago. We’re still waiting.”

In 2008, when Colorado regulators revised oil and gas regulations, they failed to include protections and buffer zones for waterways.