SILT, Colo. (KKCO) - Nearly 300 new natural gas wells were given the 'go ahead' on the Western Slope. Towns closest to the drilling fear more traffic and threats to their water supply.
284 additional wells will spring up along the Divide Creek area in Garfield County, starting at the end of this year. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved Denver–based Antero Rescources' plan for 13 more drilling pads last Friday.
“We're looking for reasonable access to natural gas resources, while minimizing the impacts to natural resources. That's the balance we're looking for,” says David Boyd, public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Land Management.
But that balance is often difficult to manage for towns hosting the hauling, this time in Silt and New Castle. “In all of these drilling operations, there's a substantial amount of heavy truck traffic and lighter vehicle traffic to the wells,” says Davis Farrar, the Silt town administrator and town planner for both Silt and New Castle.
Neighbors who live along Divide Creek say tractors are more than just a disturbance. “People do speed. The speed limit is 35 miles an hour, and at all hours of the night and day, people racing up and down road,” says Georgene Jackson, who lives across from a drilling pad with her family.
Antero has already agreed to redirect their trucks to a less traveled highway. The heavier vehicles will use a less traveled interchange near the Rifle Municipal Airport. The route may ease congestion on the highway, but not for residents bordering the new sites.
Neighbors say they also fear that a leak could contaminate their water. “I've heard about some people who have gotten ill from having their water contaminated.,” says Jackson.
“Silt gets water from the Colorado River, and any spill that may occur upstream of our water intake could impact our water supply,” says Farrar.
BLM regulators say they keep a tight watch on drilling sites to lower the risks, but they say it's never a guarantee.
“We work really closely with them to try to minimize these threats. It's always a potential threat when talking oil and gas development out here,” says Boyd.
It’s a threat that people in Garfield County have learned to live next to. Silt officials say that Antero has been responsive to the town administration's concerns.