Crude oil spills into South Platte from damaged oil tank

DENVER - State oil and gas regulators confirm there has been a release of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the South Platte River from a damaged oil tank south of Milliken in Weld County.

That's the area where CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia has been with state inspectors who are trying to determine if both tanks and well heads have been breached. 

A second spill was reported by Anadarko, but oil from it did not reach the river, Ferrugia reported Wednesday night.

In a statement, Anadarko said: "To date, we are aware of two tank batteries that were damaged by flood waters, and have associated light-oil releases. The releases occurred in flood waters associated with the South Platte River and the St. Vrain River, and we have reported them to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the National Response Center, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"We are actively working under the oversight of these agencies to contain and clean up the releases to the greatest extent possible. We will continue to provide additional information as appropriate."

The company said 5,2050 gallons of crude oil spilled.

About 600 personnel are inspecting and repairing other damaged well sites, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Right now, some inspectors can't even get to some well sites.

Ferrugia said the breach was not unexpected in a flood this big that rushed through oil and gas fields.

"When you see the power of the water, you understand there could be some damage," Ferrugia said.

It's not clear when the breach happened.

Because so many of the wells are still in deep water, teams from the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission don't yet know how many may be damaged or leaking.

"This well head is intact," said John Alexson as he and Mike Leonard checked it for signs of leakage.  "This one has remote telemetry on it, so the operator was able to shut this well before this even happened."

The two are checking thousands of wells in the state's flooded areas, looking for leaks. Most of the high-tech operators remotely shut down their wells as the water began to rise.

"The bottom casing that comes out of the ground is the strongest portion.  If we saw that was compromised, that could be a serious issue."

So far, the team has found no damage to well heads.

" As you can see the debris has come up and pushed it over, but the well head itself is intact," Alexson said.

The heads show up in an inundated field almost like small beaver dams, where rocks, limbs and even tree trunks have piled up around the well heads.

The two are looking for residual sheens on the water, or bubbling form the surface in standing water that could indicate a breach.

Each team of inspectors has a map showing the river basins, including a mile on either side, where the wells are in each sector.

Right now, the inspectors have to wait for the flood waters to recede before they can get close enough to inspect some wells.  It is just the beginning of a very extensive assessment that will take many days.

According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services: "For most people, brief contact with small amounts of light crude oil and oil spill dispersants will do no harm. However, longer contact can cause a rash and dry skin. Dispersants can also irritate your eyes. Breathing or swallowing dispersants can also cause health effects."