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Drilling off Monarch? … it’s water

When a drilling site appeared on Monarch Boulevard just south of Rocky Heights Middle School, there was concern it might be an oil well. However, a project engineer confirmed it is a water well being drilled to connect to the Arapahoe Aquifer.

Article and photo by Daniel Williams

Our neighborhood celebrated its annual block party in September. While enjoying great talk with neighbors and great food catered by Cranelli’s Italian Restaurant, a few different neighbors had a question for me.

“What’s with that oil well on Monarch Boulevard?” My response was a natural one: “What oil well on Monarch?”

“The one just below Rocky Heights Middle School (RHMS). You should find out what’s going on there and write an article for The Connection. It’s right near the school. What if they’re fracking?”

My first thought was that my neighbors were having a laugh and were sending me on a wild goose chase. After all, I drove my daughter to school along Monarch almost every weekday and I had yet to see an oil well dotting the landscape. But my neighbors were adamant that a well had popped up recently, so I told them I would check it out. Sure enough, on my drive to school the following Monday, there was a well, drilling away, about a half mile south of the school.

Wildcat Mountain Trail System
Just south of the parking lot at RHMS begins a beautiful stretch of the Wildcat Mountain Trail System. I love to take my fearless chihuahuas along that winding, hilly path that offers gorgeous views of the front range. It’s a well-traveled trail, one of our favorites, and we often have to step aside for cyclists on their fat tire bikes or the cross country team on one of their long distance runs. In July, we encountered a father and son on the trail who were pointing to the pasture to our west.

“Look!” the father told me. “Look out there! Do you see them?”

I did – a herd of elk, what looked like a hundred of them, thundering along, filling the landscape with grace and strength.

After dropping my daughter off at school, I returned to the drilling site, wondering what would happen to the elk, and for that matter, what would happen to the school’s drinking water, if there was an oil well down the road, if there was fracking taking place.

The Arapahoe Aquifer
At the site, I found activity buzzing. Men in hardhats climbing on the drilling structure, the machinery itself, humming along with rhythmic precision. I also found a sign with two numbers to call. The first connected me to East Cherry Creek Valley Water & Sanitation, but no one returned my calls. The second connected me with Scott Mefford, president of Hydrokinetics, the engineering firm on the project.

“I’m calling about the well on Monarch,” I said. “Some neighbors think it’s an oil well. They’re worried about fracking.”

“There is no fracking,” Mefford assured me. “This is a water supply well. It’s a completely different kind of operation.”

Mefford told me there’s been a well in the area since the 1970s but the well had caved in and there was a need to replenish the water supply. “We have a couple more weeks of initial work,” Mefford said. “Then a smaller rig will be brought in to pump water into the existing Arapahoe Aquifer.”

According to the Douglas County website, the aquifer “encompasses approximately 4,700-square miles and has a maximum depth of approximately 1,700 feet. The Arapahoe Aquifer contains more than 1,000 high-capacity wells and is widely used as a source for municipal water.”

Before we ended our call, I asked Mefford what else people should know about the project.

“It’s not an invasive procedure,” he said, sounding a lot like my dentist before giving me a filling. “It’s short and sweet. After a couple more weeks, you probably won’t even know we were there.”



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