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Gas company surveying seepage in Silt area

Jeremy Heiman

The gas drilling company connected to natural gas leakage on West Divide Creek south of Silt has begun work to protect residents and wildlife from possible effects of the seeps.

But some residents don’t believe the plan is adequate for correcting the seep and protecting them from negative effects. On March 30, a resident found natural gas bubbling up in West Divide Creek, and more seeps were soon found downstream for a half mile. These seeps are near gas wells recently drilled by EnCana Oil and Gas (USA).



On Wednesday, the company started surveying the soil for more gas seeps. The seeps were first noticed by residents because they bubbled up through a stream and a spring, but any gas coming up through porous soil would be invisible.

So technicians are checking for ground seeps by using infrared gas detection devices, starting from the known seeps and moving outward in concentric circles outward. Gas seeps are recorded on a map using the global positioning system, or GPS.



This process, however, will only go as far as gas detection readings are found, said Walter Lowry, director of community and industry relations for EnCana.

Lowry said EnCana will also install gas monitoring devices in the ground at nearby homes. These devices collect samples drawn out of the ground through a piece of pipe, with a vacuum pump. The samples can be quickly checked for natural gas by a laboratory.

Doug Dennison, oil and gas auditor for Garfield County, said EnCana also installed an aeration system in West Divide Creek, just downstream from the largest gas seep. This is near where benzene, a cancer causing substance, was detected in water samples last week.



Benzene, toluene and methyl phenol xylene, all poisonous chemicals associated with natural gas, were found in the water, but only benzene was found in quantities over acceptable standards.

EnCana has also placed porous tubes filled with activated charcoal, called booms, across the stream at several points downstream from the seeps, to absorb benzene and other toxic chemicals from the water.

Since learning of the natural gas seeping out in the stream, EnCana has also begun testing water from nearby East Divide Creek, at the request of a landowner whose property stretches between the two streams, Lowry said.

The results from those tests show that no water wells are contaminated with benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene or xylene, said Lisa Bracken, who lives a few hundred feet from the seeps. But she also said she thinks the company’s soil surveys will be inadequate.

Gas could be coming up anywhere within hundreds of yards of the known seeps. The search, as described by company officials, wouldn’t detect gas because the surveys are only being carried out near the known seeps, she said. The thought of undetected gas seeps is disconcerting to her.

“For those of us who are right there, it’s very, very scary,” she said.

The company is also supplying water to residents within one mile of the known seeps on West Divide Creek, in case their water wells have become contaminated by natural gas. The residents’ water wells are being tested every day by Cordilleran Compliance Services, a consultant hired by EnCana, Lowry said.

EnCana has stopped work on all its wells within two miles of the seeps, too.


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