Amid devastating, once-in-a-lifetime flooding throughout northern and eastern Colorado last month, it’s E. coli, not spilled oil, that has public health officials concerned.
As reported by The Denver Post, state officials found elevated levels of the bacteria from the Rockies to the Nebraska state line. What they didn’t find were pollutants from oil and gas development.
“Although much attention was focused on spills from oil and gas operations, it is reassuring the sampling shows no evidence of oil and gas pollutants,” Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment chief medical officer Dr. Larry Wolk told the paper.
“Much attention” may be an understatement; environmental groups and the media were quick to jump on early reports of damaged oil and gas wells, thousands of which can be found in the flood area.
The Denver Post ran a splashy, front-page photo of a listing storage tank “leaking crude,” however after being contacted by The Daily Caller News Foundation, a correction was issued: the murky water in question was just murky water.
At the time, an industry group stated 822 barrels of oil had been confirmed spilled; the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has that number at 1,027 barrels as of Oct. 8.
Escherichia coli is a bacteria present in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, virulent strains of which can cause gastroenteritis.
Despite news the oil release has resulted in no traceable contamination in water, groups opposed to oil and gas development were quick to pounce on early reports of leaks to further their agenda.
“We were concerned about fracking before the flooding,” read a press release from Environment Colorado during the floods.
“But now, oil and gas spilling into the floodwaters, contaminating drinking water, is an added exclamation point to the long list of dangers that fracking has brought to Colorado.”
Fracking — the use of special chemicals to create fissures in deep rock in an effort to extract oil and gas — is a hot-button issue in the state as some localities are bowing to pressure to ban the practice, even as state regulators claim exclusive jurisdiction over drilling.
Up to 20 million gallons of untreated sewage is feared to have flowed into rivers and streams – and neighborhoods – during the flood. A barrel of oil is 42 U.S. gallons, putting the oil release at 43,134 gallons by comparison.
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