CASPER, Wyo. — Malfunctioning equipment at an oil well storage site dumped an undetermined amount of crude oil into Emigrant Creek south of Rawlins, the Bureau of Land Management announced Friday.
Melting snow and ice revealed evidence of the spill, which probably took place four months ago, officials said. A piece of equipment that separates water from oil, known as a heater-treater, malfunctioned at a site near the stream, a BLM investigation showed.
The spill probably took place within a 24-hour period, said BLM spokeswoman Serena Baker.
Federal and county hazardous material teams have deployed containment booms, known as socks, at three spots in the stream to soak up the oil sheen from the site, located five miles upstream from Teton Reservoir near Bridger Pass Road.
Nadel & Gussman Rockies LLC, which operates the oil well and its storage site, is also pitching in to clean up the pollution, Baker said.
“The company has hired a service company and Thursday they had approximately 20 personnel along Emigrant Creek collecting that contamination,” she said. “They have also hooked up a siphon to soak up as much oil as possible.”
The company is also deploying additional containment booms, said Mike Newberry, hazmat coordinator for the BLM’s field office in Rawlins.
Denver-based Nadel & Gussman voluntarily shut down the well. The company was cited for failing to report the spill and further action is pending, the BLM said. Calls and an email to the company weren’t immediately returned.
A “concerned citizen” reported to the spill on Sunday, the agency said. Baker said the information wasn’t released until Friday because of consultations with state and federal agencies and the BLM’s investigation of the spill.
“I think BLM wanted to make sure they knew the scope before they put this out,” she said of the spill announcement.
The spill is located along State Road 71/Carbon County Road 401, approximately 15 miles south of Rawlins and upstream from the Teton Reservoir, which is a popular recreational spot.
The BLM said specialists have walked the waterway above and below the reservoir and found the heaviest contamination on Emigrant Creek. The creek flows into Little Sage Creek, but the BLM found no evidence the contamination had traveled upstream into Little Sage Creek from where the two creeks meet.
The BLM has collected water samples from Emigrant Creek and the Teton Reservoir, which are now being tested at a laboratory in Laramie, Baker said.
Fishing is still permitted at the reservoir, the BLM said.
“BLM is regularly monitoring the situation,” the agency said in a media release.