Across the nation, there are more than 900,000 active oil and gas wells. In Colorado alone, there are more than 47,000, and many of those wells are located in densely populated urban areas. Unfortunately, some have been posing a threat to the community.
On April 17 a home in Firestone, Colorado, just north of Denver, exploded due to complications with a nearby oil well. According to NPR, the home was built just 178 feet from an existing but dormant oil and gas well. Everything was fine until Anadarko Petroleum switched the line back on in January; they reportedly thought the line was properly sealed off.
Once the line was switched on, unrefined gas started to flow into an unsafe one-inch plastic pipe, and the gas slowly contaminated the soil surrounding the home’s foundation. Then, it started flowing into the basement via a drain. Because the unrefined gas was unscented, the homeowners had no idea their house was slowly filling up with gas.
Two family members died in the explosion, while two others are still in the hospital recovering. While the Firestone Fire Department has yet to officially determine the exact cause of the fire and explosion, they believe it has to do with the gas line being so close to the home.
So, as a precaution, a new state-wide directive has been established that requires gas line professionals to inspect gas flow lines if they come within one thousand feet of an occupied building. Doing so is a way “to seek to absolutely minimize any possibility of this happening again,” NPR reports.
Homes built near gas lines is a growing problem in Colorado, as suburbs are slowly expanding into areas that once were working gas and oil fields. In fact, a report by Inside Energy has found that within the past several years, 50,000 more Coloradans now live in areas where there is at least one oil and gas well per square kilometer. What’s worse is that as of right now, while new oil wells must be drilled at least 500 feet away from new homes, there is no state law concerning how close new homes can be built from existing dormant and active oil wells.
As a means to ensure community safety, the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation has decided to shut down 3,000 oil and gas wells all throughout the state until the state determines every home is safe.
In order to help those affected by the explosion, the Firestone and Denver community has rallied together to raise more than $100,000 to pay for funeral costs, hospital bills, and to help rebuild the home.