Torrential rains drench area, contribute to oil spill
Aug 20, 2014 | 4216 views | 0 0 comments | 92 92 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Torrential rains in the past weeks brought more than two inches of precipitation to many areas of San Juan County and contributed to an oil line break in the Aneth oil field.

The rainfall totals represent up to 15 percent of the total annual moisture in many areas. It was a much-needed addition to the water year.

However, the storm was not without its problems.

Large amounts of rain means large amounts of runoff. The flow of water in the San Juan River grew from 400 cubic feet per second (CFS) to more than 7,000 CFS on August 14.

There were challenges related to flowing mud in several areas, and a flash flood watch extended throughout the area.

The significant rains near Aneth caused a rock fall at approximately 3:30 a.m. on August 14. The rocks fell on and broke an above-ground pipeline owned by Resolute Natural Resources Company in the greater Aneth Oil Field.

Company officials estimate that about 300 gallons of oil may have leaked from the pipeline before it was shut off, approximately 90 minutes after the accident.

Emergency response crews were on the scene and had set up booms in the San Juan River by 7 a.m.

Officials state that the raw oil went about 3,000 feet into the bottom of what is normally a dry wash. However, with the heavy rains, the wash was flowing until it spilled into the San Juan River approximately three miles from the pipeline break.

Officials estimate that the majority of the oil was captured long before it made it to the river. A rough company estimate is that approximately 20 gallons, or one-half of a barrel, of oil may have made it to the river.

Booms were set up where the wash entered the river. Later, booms were temporarily set up at Sand Island, west of Bluff. However, with the river flowing at 7,000 CFS, the booms were quickly taken down for safety reasons.

While the storms can recharge ground water needs, area reservoirs continue to be significantly below normal levels.

The water level in Recapture Reservoir is currently 900 acre-feet below the reservoir’s conservation pool.

Blanding City Engineer Terry Ekker told the Blanding City Council on August 12 that it would require two inches of rain a week for the next six weeks in order “to get back on track”.
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