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Oil & Gas Facility Inspections Continue After Home Explosion

By Rick Sallinger

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - Inspections of Colorado oil and gas facilities so far have not found any more leaks like the one that was responsible for the explosion of a home in Firestone.

What happened in Firestone last month took two lives, injured others, and touched off a mad dash to inspect other oil and gas sites.

Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin were killed in a home explosion in Firestone in 2017. (credit: CBS)
(credit: CBS)

Thousands of wells were shut down after the blast as a precaution.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger accompanied Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission inspector Mike Leonard to Weld County.

"You notice this facility is completely shut in and it appears that they have marked the lines," he pointed out.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger interviews Todd Hartman and Mike Leonard (credit: CBS)

Leonard's job is to make sure the type of leak that happened in Firestone is not present elsewhere.

Thousands of facilities within 1,000 feet of homes are being inspected around the state. Most of that is being done by the operators themselves.

Leonard has been inspecting wells for many years for the state.

"We have houses right over here. What would you tell the homeowners about their safety?" Sallinger asked Leonard.

"I would say I live near oil and gas production and it doesn't concern me," he replied.

WELL INSPECTIONS oil and gas explosion wells generic
(credit: CBS)

But what happened in Firestone has many homeowners concerned who live near wells, storage tanks and the flow lines.

"One reason we have dispatched operators to go through this verification process is because we do feel a sense of urgency. We want people to be assured that we don't have another situation like Firestone," said Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

In that case a non-producing well had been turned on, a flow line had been cut sending gas into the ground, and created a perfect storm that created a terrible tragedy.

There are still many more inspections to be done.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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