Clean-up operations underway on oil spill near Parkview Elementary School

RANGELY | Last week a concerned citizen informed the Herald Times about a potential oil spill just to the south of Rangely’s Parkview Elementary School. 

Images submitted to the HT showed an unknown volume of what appeared to be oil near the base of large storage tanks on the site. Colorado Oil and Gas Commission records reveal the property is currently owned by Rio Mesa Resources, LLC. Miachel Hayes is listed as the registered agent of the company. The location of said spill was approximately 700 feet from the entrance of the elementary school.

The state oil and gas commission was notified of the spill, who reached out to the property owner. He confirmed the spilled liquid to be oil, and said the volume was “about half a barrel” which is 21 gallons.

“It’s been cleaned up. It’s a leak out of an old tank off a location that…the tank ended up having a hole in it, and spilled some oil out on the ground,” Hayes said.

COGCC Rule 906 governing spills and releases of E&P waste, gas, or produced fluids requires operators to investigate, clean up, and document impacts resulting from spills/releases as soon as practicable. Hayes claims that the clean up requirement has been met.

“We have cleaned the little spill up that didn’t amount to much, and it’s been taken care of,” he said.

By Tuesday this week, cleanup operations had started on the site. Two of the tanks were turned on their side and the affected soil had been dug out and piled up on site.

Hayes said he was “working with the COGCC” to get the spill taken care of. He also indicated he would be taking a sample of the area that was dug out.

“They’ll clear it, we’ll cover it back up and no one will ever know it was there,” he said.

The two tanks that were turned over for the cleanup process were both relocated from another nearby well site “about four months ago” according to Hayes.

The property, originally the site of two wells that are now plugged, is being used by Rio Mesa Resources as a private storage site. Other items stored on the site include some old pump jacks, and at least four other similarly sized tanks, which Hayes said are all empty. 

Most of the area is fenced, but there appears to be several hundred feet of fence missing on the location’s southwest side, near the cleft of some water drainage that connects to the White River, about half a mile to the north.

Rio Blanco County’s building department requires special use permits for storage facilities that include any kind of building/structure. Oil and gas storage areas like this one that don’t have buildings on them are managed by the county’s natural resources department. 

RBC Natural Resources Department Head Lannie Massey said oil and gas storage facilities are required to be designated, but added,  “Most of the old storage facilities we have in the county are pretty old, even before I was even working here.” This means they may not be registered with the state or county in any specific way.

Massey confirmed that oil and gas operators and residents cannot store hazardous waste just anywhere, noting that sites containing that kind of waste are subject to additional regulations, usually from the state.

“Any kind of hazards like chemicals they use in down-hole use in oil and gas, pipeline corrosion inhibitors or different things like that are chemicals and they have to be stored differently, and they have to be locked and isolated, [and have] spill control devices in case anything ruptures so it doesn’t get on the ground,” Massey said.

He did not mention oil specifically, but Rio Blanco County defines hazardous waste as “any material which is explosive, flammable, poisonous, corrosive, reactive, radioactive or active in any combination.”

Under Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rule 906.b.(3) operators are required to submit a spill/release form “as soon as practicable but not later than 72 hours after discovery of the spill/release.” As of this week, nothing has yet been filed with the COGCC.

According to COGCC’s online information system this would be the 21st reported spill/release in Rio Blanco County so far this year. In 2019, operators submitted 51 spill/release reports.

By Lucas Turner |