A BP pipeline hauling wastewater from methane gas wells to a treatment facility was discovered to be ruptured Dec. 13, after it spilled thousands of gallons of contaminated “produced water” into a creek carrying snowmelt to the Los Pinos River near the southwestern Colorado town of Bayfield.
The ruptured six-inch fiberglass pipe was found on National Forest Service land on the morning of Dec. 13. BP could not say how long the wastewater had been spilling from the pipe or how much escaped. The chemical composition of the wastewater is also unknown at the time.
Produced water is a byproduct of the oil and gas extraction process. It is dredged up from the rock of oil deposits along with the oil and gas. Although the chemical composition of the produced water that spilled in Bayfield is unknown, such wastewater typically contains a lot of salt, heavy metals, residual oil, and various chemicals.
Produced water spills are extremely toxic to the environment and can persist in the environment far longer than spilled oil.
According to The Durango Herald, the BP wastewater traveled about 2,300 feet along the bottom of an intermittent stream that flows into Beaver Creek and eventually into the Los Pinos. BP suspended operations at 17 of its 30 local wells and crews built an emergency earthen dam to contain the produced water.
Clean-up crews used hydro-evacuation trucks to remove the standing water. The Durango Herald reports that 6,300 gallons / 150 barrels of the contaminated water were sucked from the creek bed, and remediation efforts are underway to clean the sagebrush meadow that the contaminated water traveled through to reach the creek.
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission spokesman Todd Hartman told The Durango Herald that because of the pipeline breach, BP likely faces “some kind of enforcement action due to impact on waters of the state.”
In just La Plata County, Colorado alone, 19 spills amounting to about 350 barrels, most of which was produced water, were reported in 2016. BP was responsible for 12 of those spills.
Source: The Durango Herald