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High levels of benzene released at Weld County oil and gas site

Anadarko is removing a battery tank at the site
Posted at 6:34 PM, Dec 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-20 20:34:37-05

WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- Anadarko Petroleum has self-reported the release of high levels of a cancer-causing chemical at a tank battery site in Dacono near Weld County Roads 10 and 15.

According to a report provided to COGCC, the state agency responsible for regulating the industry, the oil and gas operator discovered the contaminated ground water and soil while trying to dig up an old pump in early December. 

Anadarko had to remove 200 barrels of tainted ground water, and lab tests found benzene 900 times the amount allowed by the state.

Benzene is a natural part of crude oil and gasoline, but is known to cause cancer.

"It's hard to argue the fact that you have extremely high levels of benzene -- well what causes it, it's not farming wheat," Tom Eubanks said.

Eubanks flies his remote-control model planes at an airstrip right next to the oil and gas site where the contaminated ground water was found. For several days, he said he watched crews haul out the toxic water and soil.

"I saw a string of three dump trucks come in here and then haul dirt out and they made three trips in one day. And then the second day they were still hauling dirt out," Eubanks explained.

According to the report, the operator also removed nearly 10,000 cubic feet of polluted soil -- enough to fill 383 hot tubs.

"I think that doesn't surprise me one bit," Eubanks said.

A spokeswoman for Anadarko said the company is in the process of removing a tank battery at the site and that's how they discovered the toxic ground water, something the operator and COGCC both said is not uncommon while doing this kind of work.

The big question that remains is are the nearby water wells safe?

COGCC said it is still conducting tests to figure that out, but said these types of releases usually don't go beyond the immediate area.

Anadarko also said they believe the site has been contained, and it will continue working with COGCC to restore the impacted area.