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Boulder County finds well leaks at 40 percent of inspections

FIRESTONE, Colo. -- Another oil and gas company announced Friday it shut down some of its wells after a house explosion and fire in Firestone on April 17 killed two men.

Great Western Oil and Gas said it's doing so out of "an abundance of caution" until testing on 61 gas flow lines at wells that are within about 250 feet of homes and buildings is complete.

Operation of all 61 of the wells was stopped by Thursday afternoon.

Soil tests near the home taken by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission represent the second set of soil testing at the site.

None of the soil test results are in, but officials said they believe the community is safe.

Concerns are still high among people who live in the neighborhood, especially when looking at data from Boulder County, which has been doing its own inspections on similar wells for years.

One well directly behind the explosion site on Twilight Avenue in Firestone was drilled in 1993. The last time it was inspected by the state was three years ago.

No cause for the house explosion has been determined.

Anadarko Petroleum owns the well near the home. It announced Wednesday it was shutting down 3,000 wells in northeastern Colorado as a precaution.

Now, Boulder County is asking all other vertical well operators to do the same.

“When Anadarko said they were going to close down 3,000 wells, that’s when the commissioners said if those wells are being closed because there could be some relationship between the wells and the incident that happened in Firestone," said Michelle Krezek, the deputy for the the Boulder County commissioners.

"All of the companies should be looking at all the wells of that same vintage and type."

Of the 300 active wells in Boulder County, more than half are of the same vintage and type as the one near the home in Firestone.

“This is equipment that is out in the elements so things can happen where you know, pieces of equipment can corrode and leaks can occur,” said Patrick Murphy, Boulder County’s local inspector and lead of the oil and gas team.

Murphy said leaks are occurring on more than 40 percent of inspections. Boulder is one of few communities with their own inspector. The program began three years ago.

“Because there aren’t enough state inspectors to really go out and inspect existing development, oil and gas development on a regular basis, the commissioners decided that was a good thing to do so we funded having an inspector,” Krezek said.

But even with a local inspector keeping tabs, county commissioners want all vertical wells shut down until those in Firestone are ruled out as the cause of the deadly explosion.