Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bulldozer Buries Toxic Sludge in Garfield County, CO

Here is a report from Journey of the Forsaken which describes what happened in this video (May 2009). Thanks to Lisa Bracken for capturing this event and writing about it.

Twenty-three days after EnCana completed hydraulic fracturing operations on the F11E (CO), the liner is removed, some of the sludge is pumped out and the remainder - perhaps 70 barrels or more - is dozed in.

The pad overlies a spring that often surfaces here. It is fed by a shallow groundwater aquifer that supplies water to West Divide Creek and a family's private water well located maybe 200 yards away. An irrigation ditch is located approximately 30 feet from the East end of the pit.

If one of the pumper trucks had overturned on the county road, spilling this stuff into the environment, a hazardous materials unit would have responded, sequestered the area, potentially evacuated citizens and employed measures to safeguard first responders, citizens and the environment. But because this is a hydraulic fracturing waste pit, out of sight of the public and on private land (owned, coincidently, by EnCana) it is simply covered up.

This same site - if it were at a gas station or a paper mill or a chemical manufacturing plant - would likely be a violation and require extensive clean-up and proper disposal at a licensed facility... as it should. But, again, here, in rural Garfield County, it is simply buried.

Industry would like us to believe that frac fluids are merely salt water, a little thickener, and food additives. But we know frac mixtures contain all kinds of hazardous substances, like biocides, benzene, hydrocarbons, solvents, descalers, surfactants, enzymes, acids, and patented synthetic chemicals. We also know the adverse health effects of some of these agents.

We know a nurse in Durango, CO nearly died of catastrophic organ failure after unprotected exposure to fracturing chemicals (we don't know what happened to the field worker she cared for). We know her physician had to guess how to treat her as she lay dying. And we know that industry lawyers blocked her testimony at a rules reform hearing where citizens and advocacy groups were lobbying for chemical disclosure. We also know that the oil and gas industry has totally refuted her claims in literature distributed to lawmakers in Washington, DC intended to influence legislators against voting to repeal hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Watching a bull dozer blade this toxic brew beneath twenty feet of uncontained soil is horrifying. Knowing that this industry is allowed to poison the land, the water and the people is even worse.
Eventually this pit was completely covered.

This site is less than a half mile from my home.... a place in the Rocky Mountains now exploited for its natural gas resource. A place once rich in other resources as well... water - air - land - wildlife - community.
EnCana calls where I live their "Field of Dreams". As they abuse the ecosystem and destroy its fragile sustainability, they reap a finite reward while leaving behind an industrial waste dump.
I apologize for the shaky video and loud background noise. The wind was blowing so hard it was shaking my hand and totally flooded the microphone.

Despite the awful nature of this situation, the meticulous work conducted by the dozer and excavator operators was something to see. I knew an operator who competed in heavy equipment rodeos, and watching him excavate was amazing.

All the folks on this site seemed capable, and I doubt that any of them gave a second thought to burying this pit. Field workers have told me this is common practice. They probably had no idea it was right over an aquifer and never considered the effects on a stream or private water well. They work around this stuff all the time, and many come to consider it routine, even unknowingly putting their own health at risk. But, EnCana leadership is well aware, and that is where accountability must begin.

As with most of these situations, it is the underlying structure of inappropriate federal exemptions, weak state rules and poor but accepted practices that lead to making this the terrible situation it is.

Only with full accountability can we develop workable and mutually beneficial solutions. Which are more than possible - they are at the leading edge of demand and on the precipice of necessity.

Ultimately, the fossil fuel industry must come out of the dark ages and embrace a more honest and cooperative manner of conducting their operations.

Part of that involves repealing exemptions that allow and encourage them to operate like a lawless regime, putting human health and safety as well as the environment at frequent and serious risk.

For over a year, at, I've been documenting EnCana's aggressive and irresponsible development of 60 natural gas wells around our home and the infamous area of the 2004 West Divide Creek natural gas blowout.

Go to
for more remarkable stories from Garfield County, CO.
Credit goes to Lisa Bracken who maintains this website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now, they want to drill near the 1969 nuclear test area: