State cleaning up orphan wells highlighted in Problem Solvers investigation

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DENVER -- In February 2018, the FOX31 Problem Solvers reported on the rise of orphan wells in Colorado.

At the time, the state estimated more than 250 orphan wells existed in the state.

One site in particular was off of Route 7 near Todd Creek in Adams County.

Pipes were rusting, shed doors were left open and liquor bottles were present.

"This is a disaster," Barbara Binder, an Adams County resident, said at the time.

"To me, the orphan well situation is a little like a hurricane sitting offshore and you know it's out there and you know it's coming ashore, you just don't  know if it's going to be a tropical storm or a Category 5," Matt Lepore, the director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said in 2018.

Seventeen months later, the state is fixing the site.

COGCC Environmental Protection Specialist Stan Spencer gave FOX31 reporter Joe St. George a tour of the site Wednesday.

The shed has been taken down, the pipes have been removed and the area has been nearly reclaimed.

"This will be regraded, seeded and topsoiled," Spencer said.

However, it has come with a cost of $100,000 or more to taxpayers because the company that owns the site, Tudex, has still not responded to any requests for payments by the state. The company shut down in 2016.

Tudex was based in Canada.

"We have claims against them, to my knowledge, [which] have not been paid," Spencer said.

As the number of orphan wells in Colorado continues to grow, the Department of Natural Resources says it is committed to improving more sites.

However, officials say bonds will likely need to be higher so companies take a hit when they up and leave.

"Companies do need to be held accountable and we will pursue these companies as we are able, but sometimes, these companies vanish in midair," said Chris Arend, a spokesman with the Department of Natural Resources.

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