Colo. gas leak discovery highlights oversight problems

Posted: Apr 5, 2013

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A leak found along a liquid gas pipeline in Colorado has highlighted the ineffectiveness of the agencies charged with monitoring the state's pipelines.

The pipeline in western Colorado has leaked thousands of gallons of benzene and other liquid hydrocarbons into the ground. If the hydrocarbons contaminate nearby Parachute Creek, the area's drinking and irrigation water and the Colorado River could be contaminated.

"It's actually a good thing they found it," said Tom Droege, a spokesman for the Williams Cos., the energy company that runs the pipelines and nearby gas processing plant.

At least five state and federal agencies are supposed to be regulating and monitoring the pipeline, but the overlap can be confusing and, as illustrated by the leak, render the agencies ineffective.

The spill resulted in more than 5,900 gallons of loose liquid hydrocarbons and nearly 180,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater. Williams workers found the hydrocarbons when doing soil tests before expanding the plant, but before that, there had been no warning signs (Greenwire, March 29).

Any leaked material "would have come up to the surface, or a pipeline lost pressure, there's no other way to my knowledge to know if there's a leak," Droege said.

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