Cliff Willmeng was filming from the banks of the raging St. Vrain River in Colorado when he heard a sound like guitar strings being plucked. He looked around for the source and spotted, in the rapids near him, an electrical pole leaning at 45 degrees. "To be honest, it was probably dangerous, what I was doing," he admits. "[But] the more unsafe the travel became, the more important the work became."
Willmeng, a trauma nurse who lives in Lafayette, Colorado, wasn't documenting the devastation of the Front Range's 1000-year flood for thrills. For years, he's been involved in trying to ban the controversial drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, from Colorado communities. As the flooding began to reach what the National Weather Service called "biblical" proportions, he realized that floodwater was headed straight for some of Colorado's most developed oil and gas drilling areas.
Concerned about how drilling sites would withstand the flooding – and what chemicals might end up in the water – Willmeng grabbed his camera. He headed towards neighboring Weld County, one of the nation's most productive agricultural counties and home to thousands of fracked wells.
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