Quantcast

BLM’s Failure Pollutes Colorado River Water Supply With Oil

A Utah oil spill has entered the water supply of the Colorado River, raising grave questions about impacts to the water supply of Las Vegas. The oil spill began after 100,000 to 125,000 gallons of oil leaked from a 45 year old oil well onto lands near the Green River, the largest tributary to the Colorado River. The spill occurred about 50 miles north of Moab, UT.

[blackoutgallery id="336211"]

A rainstorm two days later flooded the area, overrunning inadequate containment ponds housing the oil, thereby dumping thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of gallons of oil directly into the Green River. No known sampling of downstream water supplies has been performed, raising criticism from residents across the region.

“It’s offensive to hear the BLM say they’re ‘pleased’ after a large quantity of oil entered the water supply for millions of people,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council. “The BLM failed the public and it’s high time to acknowledge their mistakes instead of greenwashing this pollution. They should be warning the public about exposure to this oil, instead of pretending its not there.”

The incident is an embarrassment for state and federal officials including the BLM and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining since just the day before the rainstorm they pronounced the spill "contained." Utah BLM Director Juan Palma issued a press release May 22 saying: “We were able to catch this incident and act quickly to contain the leak and minimize the potential impacts to the environment.”

But 30 hours later, the poorly-­designed oil ponds, which had not been built to withstand a storm, overflowed during a forecasted rainstorm, dumping perhaps thousands of gallons of oil into the water supply for millions of residents. The weather forecast for the area indicated rainstorms were likely to occur but no information has been presented as to why these containment structures were not designed to withstand a storm.

 Because the river is running very high due to spring runoff (12,000 cubic feet per second), oil was not observed on the water’s surface when state and federal officials arrived on the scene 12 to 18 hours later. Water samples were collected there but no one thought to travel downstream to collect more samples.

“Even a child would look at the swollen Green River and know the oil had moved quickly downstream,” said John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper. “Its absolutely ridiculous no one traveled downstream to look for oil."

Instead, officials presumed little oil had entered the river and issued statements to the Utah press claiming very little oil had spilled into the Colorado River water supply. This claim was clearly in the best interest of the oil company and avoided embarrassment to the BLM and Utah officials who are on the eve of hosting a large Energy Summit on June 4 to court energy companies to invest in Utah energy development.

But an amateur photographer 30 miles downstream took a photo of a giant plume of oil in the Green River. Witnesses watched oil flow past for three straight hours until they finally left the area. Perhaps most startling about the image is that it was taken 1,000 feet above the river yet it clearly shows oil stretching from one bank to the other. The photo evidence is stark contrast to statements made by state and federal officials downplaying the significance of the pollution, who had no idea the photo existed before May 28.

"Las Vegas residents should be concerned because Utah is experiencing an oil boom right now, thereby assuring that more of these spills will occur in the future,” said Tim Wagner with the Sierra Club in Salt Lake City. “Clean drinking water is at the bottom of Governor Herbert’s priority list who is hosting an Energy Summit next week to court more dirty energy development in Utah."

The oil could reach Lake Mead in a matter of weeks, although no one knows for certain. No word yet as to whether rafters and other recreationalists who drink from the river in Canyonlands National Park and the Grand Canyon have been warned of the oil spill or not.

"This pattern of cavalier mistakes and media denials on the part of Utah officials in handling this oil spill is troubling” said Peter Nichols, national director for the Waterkeeper Alliance. “It is a true sign of things to come considering Utah's 'open for business' policy for dirty energy projects. This incident makes it clear that the residents of Las Vegas and Los Angeles cannot trust Utah officials to keep their water supply clean," said Nichols.

——–

YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE

Utah Oil Spill Cleanup Continues After BLM’s False Claims of Containment

How 11,000 Oil and Gas Wells Gave Utah Community More Ozone Pollution Than Los Angeles

About 10,000 Gallons of Crude Oil Spills onto Los Angeles Area Streets

——–

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Rice University marine biologist Adrienne Correa takes samples at a reef in Flower Garden Banks. Jesse Cancelmo / Rice University

Hurricane Harvey Runoff Threatens Coral Reefs

Hurricane Harvey's record rains didn't just unleash a torrent of floodwaters into the Gulf of Mexico—this freshwater could be harming coral reefs which require saltwater to live, according to new research.

After Harvey dumped more than 13 trillion gallons of rain over southeast Texas, researchers detected a 10 percent drop in salinity at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located 100 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas.

Keep reading... Show less

Pruitt Wants to Make the EPA Less Accountable to the Public

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks the law by missing deadlines, allowing polluters to violate regulations that protect our health and environment, one way the public holds it accountable is by taking the agency to court. Scott Pruitt and his corporate polluter allies see this as a problem, so Monday, the administrator moved to curtail the agency's practice of settling lawsuits with outside groups, making it easier to skirt the law.

"Pruitt's doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction," John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air program said in reaction. "His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans."

Keep reading... Show less
Oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Julie Dermansky

Nearly 400,000 Gallons of Oil Spews Into Gulf of Mexico, Could Be Largest Spill Since Deepwater Horizon

Last week, a pipe owned by offshore oil and gas operator LLOG Exploration Company, LLC spilled up to 393,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reminding many observers of the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago that spewed approximately 210 million gallons of crude into familiar territory.

Now, a report from Bloomberg suggests that the LLOG spill could be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 BP blowout, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Keep reading... Show less
Shutterstock

Big Food Is Worried About Millennials Avoiding Animal Products

By Nathan Runkle

Hundreds of leaders from fast-food chains, marketing agencies and poultry production companies recently gathered in North Carolina for the 2017 Chicken Marketing Summit to play golf and figure out how to make you eat more animals.

One session focused on marketing chicken to millennials. Richard Kottmeyer, a senior managing partner at Fork to Farm Advisory Services, explained to the crowd that millennials are "lost" and need to be "inspired and coached." His reasoning? Because there are now "58 ways to gender identify on Facebook." Also, because most millennial women take nude selfies, the chicken industry needs to be just as "naked" and transparent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Strange Days: Ex-Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland Under Orange Skies

By Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland hard with full hurricane-like fury on Monday, bringing powerful winds that caused widespread damage and power outages. At least two deaths have been reported from trees falling on cars, and The Irish Times said at least 360,000 ESB Networks customers lost power in Ireland because of the storm.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
PBouman / Shutterstock

EPA Limits Use of Problematic Herbicide Dicamba—But Is That Enough?

By Dan Nosowitz

Dicamba has been in use as a local pesticide for decades, but it's only recently that Monsanto has taken to using it in big, new ways. The past two years have seen the rollout of dicamba-resistant seed for soybean and cotton, as well as a new way to apply it: broad spraying.

But dicamba, it turns out, has a tendency to vaporize and drift with the wind, and it if lands on a farm that hasn't planted Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seed, the pesticide will stunt and kill crops in a very distinctive way, with a telltale cupping and curling of leaves, as seen above. Drift from dicamba has affected millions of acres of crops, prompting multiple states to issue temporary bans on the pesticide. Farmers have been taking sides, either pro-dicamba or anti, and at least one farmer has been killed in a dispute over its use.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Runoff from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Lynn Betts / U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Drinking Water for Millions in Rural America Contaminated With Suspected Carcinogen

Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans in farm country are contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical from fertilizer, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

The contaminant is nitrate, which gets into drinking water sources when chemical fertilizer or manure runs off poorly protected farm fields. Nitrate contaminates drinking water for more than 15 million people in 49 states, but the highest levels are found in small towns surrounded by row-crop agriculture. Major farm states where the most people are at risk include California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

Trump's Approval Rating on Hurricane Response Sinks 20 Points After Puerto Rico

President Trump's approval rating for overseeing the federal government's response to hurricanes fell by 20 points after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS revealed.

Trump's approval rating for responding to hurricanes Harvey and Irma stood at 64 percent in mid-September. Just a month later, the rating dropped to 44 percent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox