From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 19 - August 4, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Reserve pits had fences falling down and contained garbage, oil slicks and even a dead animal.
The ugly side of Jonah

by Cat Urbigkit

On Saturday, July 30, the Examiner was notified that the prior evening one oilfield service company worker had intentionally discharged an estimated 20 gallons of highly toxic hydrolic fluid on a rig location in the Jonah Field. It was an illegal act, but only one in a series of actions taken in the natural gas field that has resulted in environmental contamination.

Some of the actions have been illegal, while others are within the realm of legality but should be looked on with shame by the natural gas operators, who are currently seeking approval from the Bureau of Land Management for more intensive development in the Jonah area.

One site had a pipeline between the lined reserve pit and the unlined flare pit.
Last month, dead cattle were discovered in the Jonah Field. According to livestock producers, losses totaled at least 12 animals, most of which were killed after drinking contaminated water from oilfield pits.

There have been numerous instances of substances being illegally dumped or discharged onto the ground in the area. Stains from these saturated spots are evident by simply looking at the ground. There is one at a school bus stop just off Highway 351 now.

Here's what a recent Examiner tour of the Jonah Field discovered, with stops at less than a dozen locations:

Oil slicks and a dead animal along with assorted garbage thrown into reserve pits.

One location had a pipeline dug between the reserve pit and the flare pit, allowing the contaminated fluid from the lined reserve pit to migrate into the unlined flare pit.

Fences are down around reserve pits, with animal tracks showing that wildlife had been drinking the contaminated water.

Flare pit containing human feces.

Who is monitoring the damage? There is no environmental regulator spending time in Jonah, investigating or simply taking tours as the Examiner did.

We also received a report of a water well being rigged so that contaminants could be disposed of down the well. A more dangerous way of polluting would be hard to fathom.

The Examiner has been a supporter of continued economic growth in Sublette County, including supporting mineral industry development. We will continue to do so, but that certainly does not mean we will turn a blind eye to wrongful action.

We also realize that the only environmental protection provided in the Jonah Field is provided by the workers themselves who do care about the environment.

Environmental and agency regulators, where are you - stuck in your offices? Get out there and look around. You're also responsible for this sorry circumstance.

Come on, Jonah operators, do better.

Photo credits:  Cat Urbigkit, Cat Urbigkit

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