Sunday 22 September 2013

At least two major oil spills following Colorado flood disaster.

At least two major oil spill have occurred in the Wattenberg Oil Field in Colorado following extensive flooding in the state this week. On Wednesday 18 September 2013 it was discovered that 125 barrels (20 000 liters) of condensate (a mixture of light hydrocarbons and water that often contains significant amounts of hydrogen sulphide and aromatic compounds) had leaked from a tank battery (group of storage tanks) near Milliken in Weld County, and on Thursday 19 September a second tank battery near Platteville in Grant County had released around 323 barrels (51 000 liters) of condensate into the environment. Both facilities are said to belong to Anadarko Petroleum. It is thought that at least three other hydrocarbons storage facilities in the flooding affected area have been damaged to some extend.

A condensate tank in the South Platte River in Weld County, Colorado. This would originally have been an upright cylinder. John Wark/AP.

Authorities have also reported at least one fractured oil pipeline in Weld County, with many more sagging dangerously where sediments have been washed out from underneath them. I addition there are around 19 000 drilling rigs operating in the flooded areas, and it is highly unlikely that none of these will have been damaged by the floods.

As well as pollution from the oil industry Colorado faces problems from significant amounts of sewage that has been washed out from sewers and treatment facilities, as well as spilled chemicals for industrial, agricultural and even domestic use.

Flood waters emerging under pressure from a sewer in Manitou Springs, El Paso County, Colorado. Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette/AP.

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