Water testing at issue with Camilletti well
April 23, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The potential for water and air degradation, as well as the cumulative impacts of energy exploration, is expected to dominate the conversation Tuesday night as Quicksilver Resources seeks a special use permit to drill the Camilletti oil well on a ranch north of Milner, about 10 miles west of Steamboat Springs.
"Those are the issues that will be discussed most," county commission Chairman Doug Monger confirmed Monday.
The subject of testing water wells was on the minds of members of the Routt County Planning Commission on April 5 when they voted, 6-1, to recommend approval of the well. Commissioner Andrew Benjamin was the lone dissenter, according to the meeting minutes, saying he could not support the permit application because its conditions of approval did not do enough to require water quality testing.
The proposal for the Camilletti well describes how it would be accessed directly off U.S. Highway 40 by a private road that would cross two small tributary creeks of the Yampa River.
The well pad would be about 3 acres in size, and the vertically drilled well would reach to a depth of about 5,060 feet. Fracking operations are proposed, and a closed loop drilling system would contain well fluids.
Quicksilver expects that six to 12 employees will be on site throughout the construction, drilling and completion phases. They will live in self-contained trailers. There will be no parking on U.S. Highway 40.
Benjamin told his colleagues that he favored testing water wells below the watershed from the oil well more often than annually. He suggested quarterly testing. Others suggested quarterly testing for a brief period of years, followed by annual testing.
Planning Commission Chairman Jay Gallagher said quarterly testing would be onerous. He said the most important time for testing would be during the well's first year of production, and he called for a monitoring water well within 300 feet of the well so that any plume of contaminants could be detected early and before it reached domestic wells in nearby unincorporated Milner.
Quicksilver Resources' Stephen Lindsey, senior director of government and community affairs, recommended that a meeting be convened to include representatives of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the Department of Natural Resources, the state's Water Quality Division, a hydrologist and county officials to develop a scheme for water testing that could be applied countywide.
In a letter to the county commissioners dated April 10, Gallagher said his group felt strongly about water testing at Camilletti because, unlike the recently approved Pirtlaw well on Wolf Mountain, the former is "up gradient" from the domestic wells in Milner.
Gallagher noted that Quicksilver may someday drill as many as three wells at quarter-mile spacing on the Camilletti property and suggested that a "fence" of three or four monitoring wells below the oil wells could be an effective safeguard.
"I believe that this comprehensive approach is a preferable alternative to managing development one well at a time," Gallagher wrote.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com