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City: All's well on new pad approval

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Well-testing concerns get swift attention from mayor

By Jeremy Johnson

FORT LUPTON — Council members on July 7 approved a permit request to construct a pair of oil and gas well pads on the Burkhardt property near the intersection of Weld County Roads 31 and 14, north of Route 52 in Fort Lupton.

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The vote was made over the opposition of one neighbor who spoke on his concern for the potential of well water contamination.

Fort Lupton City Council members unanimously approved the permit request submitted by Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Onshore LP, a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum Corp., to drill nine horizontal oil and gas wells to be referred to as the Burkhardt Wells.

In their permit request, Kerr-McGee indicated they would like to start work at the site by the end of July and claim it will take about 180 to 220 days from “building location to reclamation,” meaning the project is slated to be complete by January or February 2015.

In the site plan submitted to Fort Lupton by Kerr-McGee, the company said the project the wells will be built on about 15 acres of the Burkhardt’s land and will “be reclaimed to approximately 3 acres.”

Well permit requests are nothing new for the industry-heavy, southern Weld County town that is bustling daily with truck traffic linked to the industry. But this particular permit request raised concern from Daniel Martinez, a longtime Fort Lupton resident and owner of a home along Route 52, about 2,000 feet from the approved site.

Martinez said his primary concern is his water well, which he said runs about 800 feet and in 40-plus years has always provided “good water” for both his and his brother’s family.

“For 41 years we’ve drank (the well water) and used it, and there’s never been any sign of contamination,” Martinez said. “It’s not hard water – there are no minerals; it’s good, soft water.

“One of (the horizontal wells) they’re going to be fracking will be running right under my house, from what I understand,” he added. “Eventually, there’s a good chance they will contaminate my well, and that’s my main concern.”

It was a concern shared by council member Shannon Rhoda, who earlier asked planning director Todd Hodges if there were water wells near the proposed site and if those wells had been tested. She said testing should be conducted if, for no other reason, to provide “peace of mind. 

Hodges said wells on the Burkhardt property had, indeed, been tested, but said the Burkhardts themselves are “tied to city water.”

Martinez, however, said he is not connected to the city’s water system and said he hasn’t ever paid for water, and doesn’t intend to now. And when Rhoda told Martinez he should have his water tested by the county — a free service — Martinez replied that he didn’t believe the county would respond to such a request before work is slated to begin.

“The problem is, you never know when the county is going to come out,” he said. “I was told by the Burkhardts it could be three to five months.”

Mayor Tommy Holton, a proponent of the industry and a board member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said he would see if he could pull some strings.

“Come talk to me … because I’m on the O&G committee and I will make a couple of calls to the state and get you taken care of,” Holton said.

Martinez said he also worries that the drillers will be more intrusive than plans indicate — he said permitting the project will allow the company to “sneak their foot in the door” — and said the vast expanse of oil and gas industry in Fort Lupton is “choking the town” and prohibitive of overall growth.

“Eventually, it’s just going to be another industrial site, and we already have enough industrial sites in Fort Lupton,” he said. “There’s no growth in Fort Lupton, no housing, and why? Because of all the industry.

“In this town, you can’t even buy a shirt and a pair of pants,” he added.

But Holton asked Martinez to have a little faith in the city’s overall vision.

“We ain’t done yet,” he responded. 

Another resident with a home along Route 52 near the approved drilling site, Tom Patterson, was in favor of the new development. His argument in favor was succinct.

“Encana (Oil and Gas Inc.) and Anadarko both came to my place and tested the water probably six or eight months ago and sent me the results,” Patterson said. “They’re keeping track of it. I feel comfortable with (the wells).”

When voting to approve the permit, Rhoda said she would approve the vote so long as Holton and council assured the surrounding wells were tested prior to the start of construction.

“I just want to make sure Mr. Martinez’s water is tested before they do anything,” she said.

According to site plans available on Fort Lupton’s website (www.fortlupton.org), Kerr-McGee paid the city nearly $10,000 in application fees alone. 

As part of their submitted site plan, Kerr-McGee has agreed to adhere to rules regarding reducing the impact of lights, noise and vibrations created by the wells, including shielding lights and building a “hay bale” sound and visual buffer around the well pads.

 

Contact Staff Writer Jeremy Johnson
at 303-659-2522, ext. 217, or
jjohnson@metrowestnewspapers.com.