Over the past year, oil and gas waste water pits have been at the center of a firestorm here in Western Colorado. But now one engineering firm says new water technology could eliminate the need for the pits all together, and even have us drinking the water from them.
From DeBeque to the State Capitol, waste water pits have become the hot button issue as residents and state leaders fight to keep them away from neighborhoods and out of our water supply. But Craig Meis, owner of Cordilleran Compliance Services, says a new technology could change all that.
"Being able to put this waste water to beneficial use has been a priority for a number of years," said Meis.
He says he and another group, Arista, are working with 212 Resources, an engineering group out of Utah, that is on the brink of something amazing. It has created a device that will turn waste water into 100 percent distilled water.
"It's a very significant development and we're very excited about it," said Meis.
Using a process called enhanced distillation, the pod filters chemicals out of the water and divides them up so they can still be used. Meis says because the pod can fit close to the wells and cleans the water, it eliminates the need for companies to haul waste water to evaporation ponds. That, in turn, eliminates public concerns about the pits.
"This is in [the companies'] interest just as it is in ours as a community," said Meis. "So they're very excited."
Ultra Petroleum tells 11 News it has already installed the pods on two of their sites in Wyoming. Meis says he hopes that will be the case in Colorado soon.
"The technology is tested, it's tried," said Meis. "We're working on getting those same types of facilities permitted and constructed here."
Arista says, for now, oil and gas companies are using the distilled water for their own operations, but it's not out of the question that it could be used in our facets.
"It can now be cleaned up and quite frankly pumped into a domestic system," said Meis.
212 Resources says its pod is designed to take in 3,000 barrels of waste water, and turn it into 2,700 barrels of distilled water.
"The big part that's going to be another hurdle yet to come is water law," said Meis. "Dealing with some of the water law implications."
Ute Water says it has briefly discussed the matter with Meis, and while it's shown interest in the technology, it has no immediate plans to use the distilled water in their system should a facility be built.
But with the first pod expected to be constructed in Mesa County within the next 6 to 12 months, Meis says it's a real possibility in the near future.
"I call it the next directional drilling technology," said Meis. "This is the next evolution, I think, in dealing with the waste water issues."
Arista says the first Mesa County pods will be built on rigs near Collbran. Officials say they cost several million dollars and run on electricity and natural gas.