A storage tank, damaged in recent flooding, resulted in 7,500 gallons of crude oil spilling into the Poudre River, near Windsor, Colorado. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee reported the leak to the public late Friday afternoon. COGCC spokesman said that “At this time we know of no drinking water intakes affected by this spill. The release is not ongoing.” Hartman also said that the oil has stained vegetation as far as a quarter of a mile away from the damaged tank. The spill is located south-east of Fort Collins near the Pourde River Trail.
The operator of the tank, Noble Energy, discovered the spill this week and then reported it to the COGCC, the regulatory agency for oil and gas industry of the state of Colorado. The bank where the storage tank was sitting was undercut by the recent high river flows, resulting in the tank dropping. Around 7,500 gallons, equivalent to 178 barrels of oil, leaked into the river.
Water quality experts from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the COGCC were on site at the spill on Friday, where clean-up crews went to work that same day. The crews are working using absorbent materials to absorb the spilled oil, and using a vac-truck to remove standing water from a low lying area near the tank. This is not the first time that flooding has contributed to oil spills in the state of Colorado. Last fall, at least 10 spills happened as a result historic floods ravaging Colorado and damaging oil and gas tanks.
Two tank batteries spilled around 5,225 gallons into the South Platte River, and other tanks spilled 13,500 gallons near Platteville, Colorado. The floods hit one of the most densely drilled areas of the country, and by October the full extent of the spills was still unknown, but official numbers show that 43,000 gallons of oil and over 18,000 gallons of fracking wastewater had spilled. As climate change intensifies, the torrential downpours that lead to flooding in certain parts of the U.S. will increase. State governments will have to figure out ways to deal with this new threat to their oil and gas infrastructure, and environmental viability.
The news of this newest oil spill also comes around the same time as an Environment America report finds that 849,610 pounds of toxic chemicals were released into rivers and streams in Colorado in 2012. The most common form of release was found to be nitrate pollution, which usually stems from agricultural operations.
John Rumpler, who is a senior attorney for Environment America, commented to the Denver Post that “If we suck all the oxygen out of rivers, then there are no fish and our rivers become lifeless. This pollution is a reminder why we need the strongest protection we can get under the Clean Water Act.”
Looking at the increasing number of environmental disasters, it is important to remember that ecosystems do not respond to damage linearly. An ‘ounce’ of damage does not equal an ounce of ecological damage, but instead works based on tipping-points. This means that ecosystems are prone to suddenly collapsing, instead of slowly deteriorating, after these kinds of events.