GARDNER — While there may have been plenty of water falling from rainstorms in Huerfano County this weekend, a group consisting of students, their professor, and others were more interested in ground water from wells and natural springs, as samples were collected for baseline testing as part of a National Science Foundation Sustainable Research Network Grant. Al Tucker, a member of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable accompanied Dr. Stephen Osborn, Associate Professor of Geological Sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, along with one grad and one undergraduate student as groundwater samples were taken from three private wells and three natural springs located in the vicinity of the proposed Seibert and Fortune Shell oil & gas drilling sites in Huerfano County. “This is a groundwater study that will benefit the entire county whether or not the well sites are ever developed,” Tucker told the Huerfano World Journal this week. Tucker said the group was in the field gathering the samples for about seven hours
Sunday and finished their work just before the thunderstorms moved in. The group will measure dissolved gases, elemental, and some organics in the testing process once the samples are back at the lab. Participation in the well water sample program saves residents hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, of the cost of having their well water tested. On average, a private water sample and results can cost a well owner $700 to $1,100. The $12 million grant program offers participants a full explanation of water sample findings on samples that will be taken before drilling, after drilling and during the actual fracking process if that takes place. Participant land owners agree the study results may be used in any or all scientific papers developed from the study. Residents’ names and specific addresses will not be used in research documents. Tucker said the mid-summer testing was done to get the project rolling here in Huerfano County. He said there are plans to test in spring and fall as water quality may differ slightly, due to natural conditions caused by spring run offs and summer drought. Tucker said the results of analysis of the samples may be available within about three months and he expects Osborn to return to Huerfano County around that time. He said following the initial results, Osborn and some of his students could be returning to the area about twice a year to obtain additional ground water samples during the life of the NSF grant program. Osborn stressed the importance of gaining baseline studies before drilling activity takes place at the well sites near both La Veta and north of Gardner. The University of Colorado Boulder is the lead institution for a Substantiability Research Network (SRN) funded by the National Science Foundation. The mission of this Substantiability Research Network sampling program is to provide a logical, science-based framework for evaluating the environmental, economic, and social trade-offs between development of natural gas resources and protection of water and air resources and to convey the results of these evaluations to the public in a way that improves the development of policies and regulations governing natural gas and oil development. The SRN involves 27 researchers at nine institutions: California State Polytechnic University Pomona; Colorado School of Mines; Colorado School of Public Health (University of Colorado Denver); Colorado State University; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Renewable Energy Laboratory; University Center for Atmospheric Research; University of Colorado Boulder, and University of Michigan. The grant program’s Colorado connection began in 2012 with field work in Weld County. The program has expanded to include Huerfano County and may possibly expand into Wyoming in the remaining four years of the project. “Some of these well locations may be monitored throughout the duration of the study,” Osborn said in an interview with the HWJ in September 2013.