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State acknowledges miscommunication over oil and gas venting near Erie school

Posted at 6:29 PM, Nov 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-13 20:29:21-05

ERIE, Colo. – The state acknowledges communication could have been better in letting parents of children at Aspen Ridge Preparatory School know that hazardous gases were wafting toward the school from a nearby oil and gas well.

Denver7 reported last Friday that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were found drifting into the playground of the K-8 charter school from a nearby well owned by Crestone Peak Resources.

The company was ordered to cease operations at the well on Sept. 12, and said Monday it immediately took action by combusting the gas rather than venting it.

Crestone also acknowledged Monday it didn’t communicate to the school the violation involving the drifting gases, however. “We sincerely apologize for this oversight,” the company said in a statement.

The company says it is currently plugging seven wells at the site, which was in existence long before the school was built.

Some parents were still unhappy Monday, saying they felt like they had a right to know about the gases.

“It’s a real violation of our safety and health,” said parent Justin Tollard, who has two young boys at Aspen Ridge. “Children are outside being exposed to these chemicals. To me, this is criminal.”

The executive director for the school, Todd Cordrey, told Denver7 Monday that the school spoke with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staffers who visited the site on Sept. 12, but said COGGC did not tell the school that Crestone had been cited.

The COGCC told Denver7 Monday an inspector verbally told a school administrator that day, but said the issue had been dealt with, and that all was safe.

"There was communication, that's important to note. But it doesn't mean we can't do better," COGCC spokesman Todd Hartman said. “We don’t have an indication that there were kids that suffered any symptoms from any of this.”

And Cordrey issued a statement saying the school was safe, and that he and others were in touch with both COGCC and Crestone:

Aspen Ridge is committed to provide an excellent education for our students in a safe environment. Accordingly, we take seriously the recent violation by Crestone Peak Resources cited by the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.  With that said, we believe that Aspen Ridge remains a safe environment for our students and that parents and the community need not be overly concerned. We are—and will remain—in communication with the Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the Operator, and independent resources to ensure that our students’ safety is in no way compromised by the completion of the well capping operation. While we are confident that the issue has been remedied by the Operator and is being appropriately monitored by COGCC, out of an abundance of caution, Aspen Ridge is exploring the possibility of an independent air quality monitor to put our families at ease and further protect our students.