Colo. Floodwaters May Be Toxic Cocktail
Officials, activists fear leaks from fracking chemicals, oil tanks, sewage
By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2013 7:44 AM CDT
Updated Sep 18, 2013 7:55 AM CDT
A farm is surrounded by floodwaters near Crook, Colo.   (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

(Newser) – If the floods in Colorado weren't devastating enough, officials and activists are worried that the floodwaters themselves could be contaminated with oil, chemicals, pesticides, and raw sewage. Though the extent of the problem is still unknown, locals have been photographing oil and gas wells, chemical stores, and wastewater facilities all submerged in water, reports the Colorado Springs Gazette. Many of the state's 50,000 oil and gas wells employ fracking, which utilizes toxic water, and anti-fracking activists have been particularly active in posting photos online of flooded wells and apparently leaking tanks, reports OnEarth. Indeed, the state's richest oil field is underwater. "The scale is unprecedented," says the head of Colorado's Department of Natural Resources.

"You have 100, if not thousands, of wells underwater right now and we have no idea what those wells are leaking," one activist tells Think Progress. "It’s very clear they are leaking into the floodwaters though." Other potential pollutants include open-air wastewater pits—also associated with fracking—and ruptured oil and gas pipelines. The state's health department has warned people to stay out of the water. "Many contaminants, such as raw sewage, as well as potential releases of chemicals from homes, businesses, and industry, may be contained in the floodwaters," says a spokesperson. "People are encouraged to stay out of the water as much as possible."

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Showing 3 of 11 comments
Sep 18, 2013 2:05 PM CDT
For all of the environmentalists No this probably won't stop fracking... but the oil companies will get to help with the cleanup. For all of you folks downstream.... I'd stock up on water before this gets to you. This flooding just scrubbed a bunch the heavy metals out of the old mine dumps so here comes a whole bunch of nasties from that. The states largest feed lot is out in the plains past the last line of good waste water treatment. The oil drilling also is out in the plains and away from any buffering large scale water treatment. So since your downstream water treatment facilities can't legally send any water further downstream that doesn't meet certain criteria expect many of them to get shut down till this passes. And the cleanup will likely go to the deep pockets. The regulations for companies and cities that have spills that get into navigatable waters doesn't care if it was a flood. They're still responsible for the cleanup costs. Put in perspective a 10 gallon gasoline spill into a small reservoir is sufficent to put the water out of tolerance for Benzene which is a carcinogen. It doesn't matter if you have more nasty stuff in your garage, no one is asking you to drink it.
Sep 18, 2013 11:35 AM CDT
Weld County is some of the richest farmland in Colorado. But oil is more important than corn or sugar beets evidently. Now we pay the price.
Sep 18, 2013 10:27 AM CDT
There are most likely more carcinogens and toxic chemicals in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets than in the flood waters. Or the air you breathe. or the water you drink and the processed and pre-prepared food you stuff into your mouth.