Denver – As floodwaters continue to rage across the Front Range, our first thoughts are with the victims and their families. And to add insult to injury, Coloradans now have reason to be concerned about their water quality. Oil and gas industry infrastructure in the region has been severely compromised. Toxic wastewater tanks have been spotted floating in the floodwaters, pipelines are broken and sagging, and the state is now tracking several oil and gas spills.
“We were concerned about fracking before the flooding,” said Lindsey Wilson, field associate with Environment Colorado. “But now, oil and gas spilling into the floodwaters, contaminating drinking water, is an added exclamation point to the long list of dangers that fracking has brought to Colorado.”
The largest spill occurred on Wednesday when about 5,225 gallons of crude oil flowed into the South Platte River near Milliken. Nearly 2 million residents of Denver rely on the South Platte for their drinking water and just over 70 percent of Coloradans rely on the South Platte as their main water source.
“Toxic chemicals, such as cancer-causing benzene, have mixed with floodwaters posing a severe public health hazard,” said Wilson. “While we do not know the full extent of the contamination, we know that thousands of Coloradans’ drinking water could be affected.”
The oil and gas industry is currently exempt from some key provisions of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and our nation’s hazardous waste law. The thousands of gallons of drilling waste mixing with floodwaters reinforces the need to close these toxic loopholes that leave communities vulnerable to water contamination.
Environment Colorado will be releasing a report Oct. 3, entitled “Fracking by the Numbers,” which will quantify key measures of fracking threats to our environment and health.