The Longmont city staff brought back research on potential risks to Union Reservoir due to the pending oil and gas fracking that will soon start north of the reservoir.
City staff member and Civil Engineer, Jason Elkins, gave the update. The update included information from an EPA study titled “EPA’s Study of Hydraulic Fracturing and It’s Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources.”
They concluded, from the study, that there is no widespread impact of hydraulic fracturing and that the risk to surface reservoirs is minimal.
The issues they are not concerned about from the EPA study include water withdrawals for fracking, something the City of Longmont does not allow and the disposal or storage of contaminated fracking fluid in unlined pits. The state does not allow that. According to Elkins, only closed-loop systems in containers and no unlined open pits are used.
They did identify two areas that could be an issue; The first was ‘injection of fracturing fluids in wells resulting from the failure of well-born integrity’. Cement casing protects the groundwater and if there is a failure, this is likely where it could happen. If it breaks, it could leak into a ditch and then into the reservoir. The other area of concern is surface spills, however, the chances of the fluid moving the one-half to one-mile between the drilling sites and the reservoir are unlikely. Elkins said, “It’s not going to happen”. It could, however, make it into the groundwater and make its way into Union Reservoir.
Due to these potential problems, the city staff recommends setting up an initial baseline set of tests and then continued monitoring at both drilling sites before they start and then continuing with on-going monitoring.
There are other nearby reservoirs that have directional and horizontal wells that run underneath them with drilling facilities 50 feet from the shorelines and they have reported no problems or issues. Both are in Weld County. Several of the wells have been producing for decades with no reported issues.
An issue, however, was found within the City of Longmont.
The city has done eight site reviews, ordered in 2016 by the city council, at old well sites within the City of Longmont. Seven of the eight sites came out clean. “Rider #1”, however, did test dirty and contamination and was reported to COGCC. Top Operating, the company responsible, was issued a notice of alleged violation by the COGCC. They now have an approved remediation plan of the site, which is on city property, and they have notified the St. Vrain Valley School District since the contamination has plumed onto school district property. The city is closely monitoring the situation with an estimated finish date for remediation sometime near the end of the year.
Remediation includes removal of all contaminated soil which is then replaced with new clean soil.
The City of Longmont has released information on the specifics about the cleanup. The press release is below:
TOP Operating to Begin Cleanup of Longmont Rider Well
TOP Operating Company will begin the cleanup of contaminated soil at the site of the Rider oil and gas well located near St. Vrain Road and County Line Road on the east side of Longmont.
Sometime in the next few days, TOP Operating Company will begin the cleanup of contaminated soil at the site of the Rider oil and gas well located near St. Vrain Road and County Line Road on the east side of Longmont.
The well was permanently plugged and abandoned by TOP Operating in August 2016. This cleanup is part of the original 2012 plan to close the well, but the plan was delayed when the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) filed suit against Longmont after voters approved a fracking ban within the city limits
The case ultimately was heard by the Colorado Supreme Court and, in May 2016, the court overturned Longmont’s fracking restrictions. Once there was legal clarity on Longmont’s oil and gas regulations, the two sides reengaged discussions on the future of the well site.
Plugging and abandoning of the Rider well involved cutting the production casing about 4000 feet below the surface and filling the bore hole above that with cement to assure a complete sealing of the well. The plugging and abandonment process included the removal of the large oil storage tank and other production facilities. As a part of the City of Longmont’s ongoing investigations of oil and gas facility locations within the City, soil contamination was detected at this former well site. In cooperation with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), TOP Operating is undertaking this clean up under state orders.
The environmental remediation at the Rider Well site will involve excavating of contaminated soil which is then disposed of at an appropriately licensed disposal location. When the extent of contaminated soil is fully removed from this location the excavation will be back filled with clean fill dirt. The final phase of the clean up is surface restoration which involves surface grading and reseeding with native grasses.
For additional information on oil and gas well management and oversight across Colorado, please go to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission’s webpage at cogcc.state.co.us. You can view an interactive map of wells and associated information at cogccmap.state.co.us/cogcc_
The entire presentation can be viewed below:
The entire presentation and discussion video can be viewed here:
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