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“Lives have been devastated…”

by Brian Orr

WALSENBURG-  There was one guy who spoke at the EPA hearing on Monday at the Huerfano County Community Center who was in favor of allowing Petroglyph Energy eight new well permits in the River Ridge Ranch area: Paul Powell.  Powell is the vice president and chief operating officer of Petroglyph, and he thinks the draft permits would be a great idea.  Nobody else agreed with him.

    The process Powell wants to use is to pump water out of the deep Vermijo formation, run it through a reverse osmosis filter, and pump it into the shallower Poison Canyon formation, to create a gradient to flow methane away from affected wells.

    Powell was the first speaker up before the EPA panel, which was taking testimony before rendering a draft decision on the requested permits.  Powell stated the water injection process was a safe containment system for methane-tainted wells in River Ridge Ranch.  As Powell finished speaking and sat down, not a sound was made.  To Huerfano County’s credit, nobody booed him.

    After that, speaker after speaker came up to the podium and told of damage to land, lives and finances.  “Devastated” was the word many people used.

    Huerfanos from all walks of life told how their investments are now ruined, how their peace of mind is shattered, how they don’t feel safe in their own homes.

    Dairy farmer Brett Corsentino, the poster boy for disasterous side effects, came up and simply said, “Petroglyph is a bad neighbor.  They are not accountable to anybody, and they need to make restitution to all the good people they have hurt.”

    David Gnaizda, who introduced himself as a certified water quality specialist, brought up some  points as to what exactly did ‘clean’ mean when it comes to water.  “Clean means you can see through it.  It’s a meaningless word,” he said.  “This treated water meets ‘most standards’- what standards doesn’t it meet?  The arsenic standard?  The radiation standard? The selenium standard?  What is ‘most standards’?”

    Gnaizda discussed the reverse osmosis (RO) filtration system Petroglyph wants to use to clean the water; “There are two streams that come out of an RO system- one is the pure water, and the other is called concentrate, which is whatever contaminants were in the water that you’re taking out.  In a RO system, a third to half of the water you are treating becomes concentrate.  Where is that concentrate going?  Are they injecting that back down into the Vermijo?  Or just dumping it down into arroyos?”

    Rick White, co-owner of the Maria Lake Owners Association, just east of Corsentino’s land, talked about the sudden spike in alkaline levels that are leaving the fish in his lake blind.

    Loretta Kennedy, representative of Congressman John Salazar, made it clear the Congressman was in favor of a moratorium on this activity until the USGS does a complete survey of the Raton Basin.

    Water attorney Alan Curtis spoke the longest, as numerous people donated their speaking time to him.  Curtis laid out a case of how Petroglyph’s proposal of using Vermijo water was essentially theft, but calling it augmentation.  He also noted the EPA was charged with protecting America’s water, not protecting Petroglyph.

    After the meeting was over, Brett Corsentino went over to talk with Paul Powell.  “I asked him what he thought of all this,” Corsentino said afterwards.  “He (Powell) asked if I had received his latest proposal, which was laughable.  I said he should come out and look at my corn.  He said he didn’t have time to look at corn.  He had nothing to say.”