Residents in Parachute, Colorado, have raised concerns about contaminated irrigation water following a leak of natural gas liquids near Parachute Creek. A faulty pressure gauge of a pipeline valve began leaking on December 20, and was not discovered and stopped until January 3.

Officials estimate that 6,000 gallons of hydrocarbons have been recovered following the leak, and about 4,000 gallons remain in the soil and groundwater. The irrigation season is about to start as the town diverts water from the creek into a reservoir used by local residents.

Officials plan to shut the reservoir intake if more contamination is detected upstream. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reported that the faulty gauge might be the source of all the contamination. The agency is continuing to investigate the case.

Parachute has a second, unused reservoir that it is working on using for extra storage to temporarily meet irrigation needs, should the creek show contamination. However, at this time, monitoring has not found problems in creek water, although high benzene levels have been found near the creek.

The contamination has generated significant national media attention and deterred some people’s plans to relocate to the area, reported Roy McClung, town council member and former mayor. “It kills me to see that families don’t want to move here because of this,” he said.