Heavy rains returned to Colorado on Sunday and hampered rescue efforts after last week’s flash floods. The confirmed death toll has risen to seven, and hundreds are still unaccounted for. An estimated 1,500 homes are destroyed. Some 1,000 people in Larimer County, north of Boulder, were awaiting airlifts that never came on Sunday — they were called off because of the foul weather.
The floods have also triggered other problems that have gotten a lot less media attention: Fracking infrastructure has been inundated and its toxic contents have spilled out. Pipelines that transport fossil fuels are sagging and snapping under pressure. Tanks that store chemicals and polluted water are being overwhelmed and toppling over. Oil and gas wells are flooding.
“You have 100, if not thousands, of wells underwater right now and we have no idea what those wells are leaking,” East Boulder County United spokesman Cliff Willmeng said Monday. “It’s very clear they are leaking into the floodwaters though.”
Photographs shared by East Boulder County United, a Colorado environmental group that opposes hydraulic fracturing, show many tanks have been ruptured and others floating in the flood. At least one pipeline has been confirmed broken and leaking.
MILLIKEN — Industry crews have placed absorbent booms in the South Platte River south of Milliken where at least 5,250 gallons of crude oil has spilled from two tank batteries into the flood-swollen river.
The spill from a damaged tank was reported to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Wednesday afternoon by Anadarko Petroleum, as is required by state law.
State officials have responded to the spill site, which is south of Milliken near where the St. Vrain River flows into the South Platte.
Nearly 1,900 oil and gas wells in flooded areas of Colorado are shut, and 600 industry personnel are inspecting and repairing sites, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Crews are inspecting operations, conducting aerial and ground surveillance, identifying and determining locations of possible impairments, the association said Tuesday.
Anadarko, the second-largest operator in the operator in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, has shut about 10 percent of its operations — 250 tank batteries and 670 wells.