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Theron Stoddard Provided by Deseret Book

Rock slide damages pipeline, spews oil into San Juan River

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue | Posted - Aug 19th, 2014 @ 1:28pm

MONTEZUMA CREEK, San Juan County — A suspected rock slide damaged an oil well pipeline and sent at least five barrels of crude oil into a wash that is a tributary of the San Juan River.

A Utah Department of Environmental Quality incident report indicates the oil migrated 1.75 miles down an unnamed wash before reaching the river, where a sheen was observed. Absorbent booms were placed in the area to the contain the oil, which came from a well owned by Denver-based Resolute Natural Resources.

The report said the spill was detected Thursday from a well that can produce up to 34 barrels of oil per day.

The spill occurred on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, which sent representatives to the site to investigate.

In May, a 1969-era oil well experienced an equipment failure below the surface about 12 miles southeast of the city of Green River in Emery County.

The Salt Wash spill resulted in the release of release of produced water mixed with some oil and mineral compounds such as salt. The mixture ultimately reached the Green River 5 miles downstream from the spill site, aided by a torrential downpour a few days after the failure.

Bureau of Land Management officials say it will be a year, maybe two, before they are prepared to give the "all clear" on the cleanup.

The Utah Division of Water Quality issued a notice of violation to the operator and is waiting for the company's response.

Earlier this year, both the BLM and U.S. Forest Service were scrambling to untangle the complexities surrounding four spills of oil or brine water involving the same company, Citation Gas and Oil Corp., on land in or near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

One incident dated back to November 2013 on Forest Service land, while another inside the monument was described as a decades-old spill that was exposed by flooding.

BLM officials believe the spill happened in 1971 and came from a well that predated Citation's acquisition of the mineral rights. The well was shut down this year after the old spill was first detected, and authorities soon found a small patch of oil from a nearby pipeline.

In 2012, there was a "reportable" incident of a spill involving more than 10 barrels of brine water used in the production process. The company was issued a notice of noncompliance by the Forest Service and was asked for a updated spill plan, replacement of the aging pipeline and for the spill to be cleaned up.

Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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