Weld County commissioners to explore air/soil monitoring program in wake of Firestone explosion
May 4, 2017
In the wake of a house explosion that killed two people and injured two others last month in Firestone, the Weld County commissioners plan to investigate the possibility of creating a testing program for deadly gases, much like the county's free water testing program, to give residents some measures of comfort with drilling activity in their vicinity.
On Tuesday, state and fire investigators revealed that an abandoned flowline that was severed less than 10 feet from the foundation of 6312 Twilight Ave. in Firestone and improperly capped at the well head of a producing well 178 feet away, flooded the French drains and sump pit of the home, filling the basement with deadly methane gas that was undetectable. The well had been turned back on in January after being shut down for all of 2016. The well was drilled in 1993, and the home was built in 2015 in accordance with Firestone regulations of being at least 150 feet away.
In response to the explosion, state officials have ordered all oil and gas operators in the state to inspect all wells within 1,000 feet of an occupied structure, and verify that any abandoned flowlines are sealed, and active flowlines pass integrity testing. They have until the end of June to complete and document the tests.
The commissioners plan to research options for air/soil monitoring equipment, with the hopes of setting up a public testing program that is similar to the county's free water quality testing program for residents. But, they warn, nothing has been decided.
"This is really based on our well testing program that we have in place, and that's been very successful," said Julie Cozad, chairwoman of the commissioners. "We wondered if there was something else maybe we could be doing to look at air quality or soil monitoring. Is there is some equipment we could look at? We're just in very early stages of that though."
The county commissioners began the free water testing program in 2012. The county began it in response to residents' concern about the safety of their drinking water. It is still available, yet only available to residents who rely on well water for drinking water. By March 2013, after 100 water samples, county officials reported they found no contamination.
In addition to exploring the new program, commissioners state they've also sought an audience with COGCC members "to learn how the inspection of wells will be conducted, how the inspection reports will be recorded and how will those reports by made available to the public,' the release stated.
"We will continue to explore what we as a county can do, within our purview, to ensure the safety of our residents," the release stated. "We will continue to advocate for public safety for the residents in Weld County. We will continue to actively participate in discussions with the industry and with the state regarding improvements that can be made. And we will continue to find a way to successfully coexist with an industry that has been and will be in Weld County for a long time to come."