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Owners sometimes don’t know abandoned oil and gas wells sit on their property

DENVER -- Gov. John Hickenlooper has ordered all oil and gas operators in the state to inspect and test all active and abandoned flow lines within 1,000 feet of buildings in the next 30 days.

But there are countless others, abandoned decades ago, that aren’t marked or buried under buildings, including one near downtown Denver.

Data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission show the location and status of every known oil and gas well, active and plugged in the state.

RELATED: Location, status of oil and gas wells in Colorado

An abandoned well sits on the address of the Forney Museum of Transportation at 4303 Brighton Blvd.

Information director Christof Kheim said he was never informed about the abandoned well.

“It would have been nice to know that at the time we purchased the property about 17, 18 years ago. For example, we were made fully aware when we did purchase the property that we do sit on a Superfund site,” Kheim said.

The museum was made aware of other pollutants and contaminants in the area, and the site is monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency, but no one has disclosed the abandoned well that supposedly is underneath.

Other abandoned wells unknown to builders and property owners have been the cause of accidents.

In 2005 a trailer home in La Plata County exploded. According to records from the COGCC, the home was 150 feet from an old well that was plugged by the state agency 11 years earlier but still found to be leaking methane.

And in 2007, an explosion injured three people working on a new home in Trinidad. Investigators found the home was built on top of an old well that contractors said no one knew or informed them was there.

Contractors said methane was also found to be leaking from a cracked concrete pour over the well when it was abandoned.

“There is not a comprehensive map of flow lines from the beginning of time. Under current rules, operators are required to tell us the planned route of a flow line for a new oil and gas well,” said Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The COGCC admits not all flow lines are mapped and its mapping of wells could have inaccuracies.

“There is an on-call line requirement in the state of Colorado. It's 811. Operators are required to participate in 811 so they should be reporting these lines to that service and if a developer calls, those lines should be identified,” Lepore said.

The COGCC also said it doesn’t have jurisdiction to regulate where developers can build.

And in Colorado, there is no requirement for homeowners to be notified of abandoned oil and gas wells on their property, which means buyers and builders must be diligent about the history of their property.

Kheim said he will be looking into the supposed abandoned well that is underneath the property.

“We’ll just have to see and do some more research, he said. "As far as we’re concerned, if it was properly capped and is many feet down, I don’t think there’s much of a concern after all these years.”