It is not surprising that inspectors hunting for oil pipelines and oil drums damaged in Colorado's epic floods are being "completely overwhelmed" by the sheer scale of destruction. Jared Polis, the State's Democratic representative said the state's regulatory agency was struggling to reach flooded areas and arrive at a full accounting of the damage and potential leaks to its 50,000 oil wells. Inspectors have so far reached about a third of the flooded oil fields. Last week, aerial surveys of the flooded area showed dozens of overturned storage tanks. "Inspectors are completely overwhelmed. There are only a couple of dozen in the state and some areas remain inaccessible even today," Polis had told the Guardian. "The number of inspectors is insufficient to reach all the sites." On Monday, Joe Biden spent the day in Colorado, touring the devastated areas. The body of a 79-year-old woman was found beside the Big Thompson River, authorities said, bringing to eight the death toll from the massive flooding.
The state has 17 full-time oil and gas inspectors, although reinforcements have arrived in the wake of the floods. As of Monday afternoon, the state's oil and gas regulator reported eight "notable" spills over the vast oil and gas area, which it said amounted to a release of some 27,000 gallons of oil. A statement from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said: "Wet, muddy and high-water conditions continue to make access slow and difficult in many areas." In addition to the eight known leaks, crews were monitoring about 10 other sites with evidence of sheen, the state regulatory agency said. But it said there were at least 33 other locations with damaged equipment. The agency added: "No estimates of product losses are available for those sites." The industry said it was monitoring the wells by air and from boats, as well as relying on pressure sensors to monitor conditions inside the wells. Rushing floodwaters clogged with debris damaged oil gas pipelines and tanks in a number of locations. But the oil industry said 1,500 oil wells in the worst affected area were sealed off before the floods hit. Jonathan Singer, a member of the state legislature from the flood-hit area who has opposed fracking, said his biggest concern was simply getting inspectors to all the well sites. "We just don't have the resources to get out to every well as quickly as we should be," he said. "This was a huge flood and unfortunately it went through the county where we have the highest proportion of oil [and gas] wells in Colorado."