|photo by Andy Cross/ the Denver Post|
The rain pummeling Colorado this past week caused epic flooding. Photos show miles of devastation: homes lost, crops underwater, surviving livestock on flooded pastures, people in shelters.
In addition to rescuing stranded people, emergency crews have also had to contend with broken oil and gas pipelines - and those that haven't broken yet are exposed due to eroded ground.
According to reports from the Denver Post, "Oil drums, tanks and other industrial debris mixed into the swollen river flowing northeast. County officials did not give locations of where the pipeline broke and where other pipelines were compromised."
Weld County is home to about 20,000 oil and gas wells, and companies have been drilling on the flood plains. Once the gas and oil companies were notified of the threats, they began shutting down drilling operations and transmission pipelines. Even so, that still leaves wells, tanks, gathering lines and transmission lines in the path of raging waters.
In a statement to the press Gary Wockner, of Clean Water Action, said "Fracking and operating oil and gas facilities in floodplains is extremely risky. Flood waters can topple facilities and spread oil, gas, and cancer-causing fracking chemicals across vast landscapes making contamination and clean-up efforts exponentially worse and more complicated."
What does a flooded gas well look like? Here's a video that was posted to Facebook Friday evening.
video link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=303218053153761
No one expected this type of flooding: it's a one-in-500-year type of event, aided in part by hillsides denuded of trees resulting from wildfires over the past couple years. Even so, the results illustrate the risks of drilling in flood plains. Even when the company shuts off the drilling or shuts down a pipeline, there is little they can do to prevent flood waters from ripping tanks from their moorings or washing frack pit waste downstream.
update: check Texas Sharon's excellent blog, Blue Daze for updates on this issue.
More Photos of gas and oil infrastructure in the floodlands: (from the Boulder area):