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

(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."

A farm is surrounded by floodwaters near Crook, Colo.
A farm is surrounded by floodwaters near Crook, Colo.   (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)
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