Sand Creek: Suncor crews are constructing a trench to intercept the benzene laden flows


Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. He, and the Post in general, have done a very comprehensive job of covering the spill so far. Click through for the whole article and video of the cleanup. Here’s an excerpt:

The latest data show the concentration of cancer-causing benzene at levels 69 times higher than the national drinking-water standards at the point where Sand Creek enters the South Platte River.

Once the trench is completed, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emergency-response coordinators said, the EPA will scale back the federal role and rely on Colorado health officials to oversee a long-term cleanup…

About 100 feet of the trench is complete. Suncor refining vice president John Gallagher said he expects the work to be completed next week.

Kimbel said state health and Suncor officials now “have got to figure out what the source is, how it is getting there and what they have to do to address it.”[…]

EPA contractors have begun testing for benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene and on Friday released results from Tuesday and Wednesday. Tests of samples drawn from Sand Creek on Wednesday show benzene concentrations of 1,970 parts per billion at the point where the liquid enters the creek, and 348 ppb at the point where the creek flows into the South Platte. Tests at a location across the main channel of the South Platte showed a concentration of 108 ppb.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

No public health warnings have been issued. Kimbel said today that people who stay on the bike path along the Sand Creek Regional Greenway should be safe. A well-delineated “hot zone” has been set up around the area where clean-up crews are working to stop the flow of contaminants into the creek.

Battling snow, freezing temperatures and mud, they have been pushing to catch and contain the liquid as it seeps from the shoreline, preventing further contamination of the creek and South Platte River. Workers also have used heavy machinery to buttress absorbent booms strung across the creek. Suncor is taking “all the action that we believe is necessary,” said John Gallagher, company vice president for refining.

But there’s no easy end in sight to the situation in this industrial zone — a situation that over the past year took a turn for the worse with new hydrocarbon and dissolved petroleum compounds moving in groundwater and surfacing as vapors in nearby Metro Wastewater buildings…

Even before Suncor bought the refinery from Conoco in 2003, pollution now migrating to the wastewater plant — where one building is partly closed and workers have been forced to wear respirators — was documented. Oil refineries have existed at the Suncor property under various owners since the 1930s. About 300 groundwater wells have been drilled around the property and at the wastewater plant to track contamination — 25 of them capable of recovering liquids. Much of what regulators have been monitoring is described as “legacy contamination,” consisting of “mostly tarry asphaltic pockets of petroleum products underground that have not been moving,” said Warren Smith, a state health department spokesman.

More Sand Creek spill coverage here. More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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