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Oil and gas spills happen nearly 12 times a week in Colorado

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DENVER -- Over the weekend, Anadarko Petroleum reported a spill at one of its sites in Erie.

According to the company, it was found while the company was attempting to plug the site near Highway 52 and that contaminants are no longer being released.

But for residents in the area, it is representative of a growing problem.

"We get desensitized to this. This is not normal, this is not OK,"  said Christiaan van Woudenberg, a resident and concerned activist.

There were 617 spills in 2017, an increase of nearly 17 percent from 2016. But it wasn't a record; in 2014, there were 175 more spills in Colorado.

Last year did set a record for number of fines. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission sent out more than $7.1 million in penalties last year.

"That is too many. We obviously prefer there be zero spills," said Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the COGCC.

Hartman pointed to reasons why there is an increase.

He said the industry must notify the public about spills more than ever and also there are more active wells operating in the state.

For instance, in 1999 there were more than 21,000 active wells. In 2017, there were nearly 55,000.

"These are miniature industrial sites. You are going to have issues. Human beings plus industry equal occasional problems," Hartman said.

Hartman emphasized it is a delicate balance the COGCC must have because the oil and gas industry has the right to operate.

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