BP to clean up contaminated water well
Public involvement requires written request
by Pinedale Online!
August 20, 2007
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has agreed to allow BP America Production Co (BP) to enter into a Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) for a contaminated industrial water well in the Jonah Field.
The well was tested in 2006 and 2007 and was found to contain petroleum-related contamination at levels higher than DEQ allowed standards. The timing of the release, source and extent of the contamination are not known. Both DEQ and BP are actively investigating the problem.
The Voluntary Remediation Program sets out a process that can be used by owners of contaminated sites, or by potential developers, to quickly reach decisions about required remedial activities and put contaminated sites back into productive reuses. Any individual, business, or unit of government that conducts an environmental investigation and cleanup of a contaminated property – following state requirements under the VRP – can receive a release from future environmental liability.
The BP Corona 2-14 industrial water well is located approximately 30 miles south of Pinedale in Sublette County. The site is less than an acre in size and is not used for drinking water by either humans or livestock. The well is not permitted as a public water source, and BP has no intention to do so. The well is 973 feet deep and has a diameter of six inches. It is currently locked out of service and is not being used, according to BP.
Petroleum-related contamination was found when ground water was sampled and analyzed in December 2006 and January 2007. The BP well was one of three wells found to contain hydrocarbon levels above standards allowed by DEQ. 82 other wells had detectable hydrocarbons, but at levels below DEQ standards. The other wells with high contamination levels were operated by Shell and Ultra.
The Corona 2-14 well is located in T28N, R109W, NE corner of Section 14, in the Jonah Field. Groundwater samples were taken at three discrete intervals: 300 feet, 600 feet and 900 feet below ground surface. The Corona 2-14 well initially tested with a 346 ug/l (parts per billion-ppb) level of benzene (a carcinogen). After pumping, BP re-tested the well and found the level had dropped to 15.4 ug/l (ppb) for benzene. BP then conducted a third test. Groundwater samples were taken at three discrete intervals which showed the following: at 300 feet, the well showed 99.2 ug/l (ppb) for benzene; at 600 feet, the well showed 379 ug/l (ppb) for benzene; and at 900 feet, the well showed 615 ug/l (ppb) for benzene. These levels were still above the 5 ug/l (ppb) maximum allowed by the DEQ for drinking water standards.
BP has indicated backflow from surface hookups is not likely due to their operating procedures. “Our initial review suggests that backflow utilizing our operating practices is not likely, and the contamination source is unknown at this time. We have utilized back flow protection (Check Valves) on our meters when pumping wells,” stated Donald Brooks, Jonah Field Environmental Coordinator with BP, in a letter to the DEQ. BP’s operating procedures require backflow protection to be in place at all times, while the well is in use.
There is the possibility that there are shallow gas pockets in the area which may have naturally-occurring hydrocarbons in the geology that may account for the high levels that were found in the water quality test results. DEQ does not believe this is the cause at this time, based on the types and concentrations of hydrocarbons in the BP well.
The water quality testing found Benzene levels to be higher at deeper water levels than at shallower depths, which BP representatives indicated was puzzling. The higher concentrations at deeper levels may suggest the contamination was not due to a surface introduction source, but rather may have been due to cross contamination through an underground aquifer from a nearby operating well. This could occur if an operating well has cracks or leaks in the seals of the well casing allowing gas to escape the well and move underground into adjacent aquifers. This is another possibility being investigated by DEQ.
As part of the VRP program, BP is required to notify adjacent landowners when investigation or cleanup begins related to this well. They must also post an advertisement in a local paper for four consecutive weeks notifying the public that they have applied to be in the EPA VRP program.
DEQ has steps and guidelines that must be followed as part of the process. By law, any interested person or party may request development of a public participation plan regarding BP’s VRP. The notice and letters to adjacent landowners are the first step in the public involvement process. The public has 30 days from the date of the last published public notice to request a more detailed, site-specific public participation plan. If more than 25 people, or a group representing more than 25 people indicate an interest, the company will need to prepare a detailed, site-specific public participation plan. If fewer than 25 people write in to request it, the company doesn’t have to do that detailed public participation plan.
Interest parties must submit a request in writing to the DEQ in order to be included in the review and comment on site investigation proposals and to review and comment on proposed remedies or other activities. In the case of this contaminated BP industrial water well, the public has until Monday, October 8, to submit their request for development of a public participation plan. Send a written request to:
LeRoy C. Feusner, P.E. BCEE Administrator
Solid and Hazardous Waste Division, DEQ
122 West 25th Street
Cheyenne, WY 82002
For further information, contact Hal Hatfield with the DEQ at 307-335-6944 or Don Brooks with BP America Production Co at 307-328-9646.
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
Voluntary Remediation Program
Hydrocarbons found in 85 Jonah/Pinedale Anticline water wells (Pinedale Online, April 26, 2007)
Industry Self-Reporting Leads to Water Well Contamination (Ground water contamination due to a natural gas well in Colorado)