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Health, Science & Environment

Emergency Crews Near Green River Stop Well Leak

Division of Environmental Response and Remediation
Utah Department of Environmental Quality



Local, state and federal emergency officials have plugged an oil well spill near Green River after the well gushed out of control for more than a day.

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining made an initial report Wednesday afternoon after a wellhead casing failed and spilled thousands of gallons of contaminated water at a location around 10 miles from Green River City. Emergency crews scrambled to stop the flow of a crude oil and water mix moving toward the Green River.

“It is bursting water out at about 100 barrels per hour, which is a very rough estimate,” said Dan Griffin, an environmental engineer who has been monitoring the situation for the Utah Division of Water Quality.

“It looks a lot like you’ve got a sprayer on a hose that’s turned on and you’ve got a hole in the garden hose right in front of that sprayer that’s been – you know the sprayer’s plugged up, so you’ve got this jet of water coming out the side at high pressure.”

Credit U.S. Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
A view of the spill near Green River before the leak was stopped.

  By Griffin’s estimate, natural pressure made the flow around 100 gallons a minute, or roughly 100 times the rate water comes from a garden hose.  That was until emergency crews succeeded in replacing the wellhead Thursday afternoon.

Reports say containments for the overflow did not hold overnight. The oil water mix had flowed about halfway down the three-mile wash toward the Green River.

“They want to stop the leak without destroying the well. Because if they destroy the well – the well cap – any other oil that might come out of it might not be able to be recovered,” he said. “And if a further leak comes as a result in the future, they’ve destroyed the top of this well and they have to dig further even if it’s at shutdown and not used.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency arrived at the remote site Thursday morning. The Utah Division of Gas and Mining, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and the BLM are all pitching in to deal with the spill and its aftermath.

SW Energy, the company responsible for the well, did not respond to a call seeking comment.

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