A rig behind an open dirt wall north of Parachute. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

Williams is not alone when it comes to failing inspections at construction sites in Garfield County’s gas fields.

The Petroleum Development Company received two stormwater permits, one in 2002 and one in 2007, for construction of an access road for oil and gas exploration on 56 acres about 10 miles north of Parachute. Under the permit, it was allowed to discharge stormwater into Garden Gulch, Parachute Creek and the Colorado River.

The company started construction on the Garden Gulch site in December 2005 and the site was inspected in April 2008. Inspectors found numerous flaws in PDC’s stormwater plan and found “significant erosion” due to improper mitigation measures.

The company responded to a notice of violation by saying it had “quickly, efficiently, and effectively augmented what was already a strong stormwater program.” And it said it was “unaware of any exceedences of water quality standards in Parachute Creek or any other actual environmental harm associated with these alleged violations.”

Nonetheless, Petroleum Development was ordered to comply with the terms of a November 2010 consent order, which required the company to pay $105,000 in penalties and $56,000 for a public drinking water intake water quality monitoring project for the town of Parachute.

The intake monitors water from the Colorado River, where Parachute gets some of its municipal water, for traces of oil and gas. The monitoring system was recently installed.

In another instance, the EPA fined Petroleum Development $11,000 in September 2009 for spilling 175 barrels, or 1,555 gallons, of No. 2 diesel oil in to Garden Gulch Creek, which runs into Parachute Creek and the Colorado River.

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A section of a pipeline project, within 50 yards of the Colorado River, on Saturday, April 9. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

The Antero Resources Pipeline Corporation received a state stormwater permit in September 2006 that allowed it to discharge stormwater into the Colorado River.

On May 24, 2007, state inspectors found numerous problems with the mitigation plan. They documented erosion of disturbed slopes and sloppy mitigation measures, and found Antero failed to keep inspection records.

Antero responded that it was supposed “to minimize, not totally eliminate” erosion. And it said the alleged violations were overblown, and that “all surface disturbances associated with pipeline construction had been reseeded and vegetation established.”

The company said that “of the seven facility inspection findings made by the Inspector, six were identified as having only a potential for discharge and Antero Pipeline in good faith believes that it performed corrective actions in time to prevent discharge from occurring.”

In the end, a consent order was agreed upon in which Antero was fined $27,000 in civil penalties and agreed to pay $121,000 to fund a pilot wood-stove exchange project in Garfield County, where low-income homeowners could receive grants to replace their older, more-polluting wood stoves for new efficient ones.

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Brent Gardner-Smith

Brent Gardner-Smith, the founder of Aspen Journalism, and who served as AJ’s executive director until August 2021 and as editor from 2011-2020, is the news director at Aspen Public Radio. He's also been...