Colorado flooding – exposing the risks of riverside oil wells

Photo by: John Wark, AP

In the past month, it seems that environmental cataclysms are moving closer to home. The recent catastrophic floods in northern Colorado have done quite a bit of damage. Ten people died in the flooding, and about 18,000 houses were impacted by the floods. The residents are still attempting to clear up the damage from the floods, and it will continue to be a lot of work. However, besides these apparent damages, oil and gas wells were also affected. Weld County is the center of oil and gas drilling in Colorado, and it was unfortunately heavily affected by the flooding. The county contains about 20,000 oil and gas wells, many of which sit along the southern floodplains of the Platte River. The wells are supposed to be very sturdy, but the intense flooding swept debris down the river, breaking pipes and spilling about 37,000 gallons of oil (as currently estimated). The Colorado Oil and Gas Association argues that compared to all of the other damage, this amount of oil spilled should not be of concern.

Environmentalists take a different stance on this matter. They worry that water sources are now contaminated from this spillage, small as it may seem. Because most of the damaged oil and gas wells are on the floodplains of the river, the oil wouldn’t have to travel very far to seep into the water sources. In addition, any spilled oil could easily leak into groundwater no matter where it was. Environmentalists are taking this chance to point out the risks of riverside oil wells. They wanted all drilling to be stopped to take a look at damage, but currently only the 1,900 damaged wells have been shut down, while the rest continue to run to fuel our addiction to fossil fuels.

This fall, there are several towns in Colorado that are going to be voting on banning fracking, following suit of Longmont’s decision to ban it last year. It will be interesting to see whether this oil spill will have any effect on these ballot decisions. Unfortunately, I think it is these disastrous events that make people take action against climate change. When the dangers are close to home people tend to take more of an interest in doing something to make their homes safer. In this case, the potential contamination of water sources may make Colorado residents reconsider our system of continuously taking a nonrenewable resource out of our earth.

Information from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/27/us/after-the-floods-a-deluge-of-worry-about-oil.html?ref=earth&_r=0

For more information visit:

Fracking: http://www.what-is-fracking.com/

Colorado Flooding: http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2013/09/25/colorado-flood-report/2870191/

Here are some crazy pictures of the flooding: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/09/historic-flooding-across-colorado/100591/

By Jessica Smyke, Zero Waste Team member

Fracking up the Environment

by Arimoore (http://www.flickr.com/photos/arimoore/)

Water is the most relied upon resource in the world. Without water, our planet would be a rocky wasteland empty of life. We depend upon this resource to provide life. Knowing this, why do we continuously waste and dump poisons into our quickly vanishing, life giving blood that flows through our planet? Many companies destroy underground water systems right in front of the public’s eyes, and we don’t even know it’s happening. We see the trucks every day that carry these chemicals to and from natural gas wells, where it is then pumped into the ground to break up rock deep in the ground using a process called hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing is the process in which natural gas drillers break up shale deep down in the earth in order to reach previously unattainable natural gas pockets that are sometimes over seven thousand feet below the earth’s crust. In order to achieve this, hundreds of trucks bring water and sand to natural gas wells all over the state. However, water and sand are not the only things being pumped into the wells. A barrage of chemicals is also being pumped into the earth. Some are known and others remain a mystery to everyone but the companies that supplied them. Many of these known chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde are known carcinogens or cancer causing substances. The reason many of these chemicals remain anonymous is because the oil and gas companies found a loophole in the clean water act, signed in 2005, that allowed companies to not to have to disclose information concerning fracking and what goes into it.

So where do all of these mystery chemicals end up? Many stay deep in the earth’s crust and are slowly filtered out through many layers of sediment until they are virtually undetectable in the water table. But what about the chemicals that find their way into underground water reservoirs that the species of earth depend upon so very much? The answer; is right into the very faucet you and I drink out of every day. Sure most of our water is filtered in a water treatment plant and deemed safe to drink, but what about the people that live in rural communities and get there water from wells that have been safe to consume for years until now? So the real question is not whether this will affect us in the future but whether or not were going to stop letting oil and gas companies continue to poison us right under our noses today?

For more information visit:

http://www.propublica.org/series/fracking

http://www.propublica.org/special/hydraulic-fracturing-national

http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/

http://www.energyjustice.net/naturalgas

http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_17905497

~ Jacob Lybrook