Sand Creek: Suncor groundwater contamination prompts additional measures from the CDPHE

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

State health officials ordered additional measures on Friday afternoon to minimize environmental harm and prevent people from ingesting contaminated water. Those measures include posting of “Drinking Water Warning” signs at the refinery. Benzene levels in Sand Creek are fluctuating but reached 670 parts per billion on Dec. 22 — 134 times higher than the 5 ppb national drinking water standard. An anonymous tip from a Suncor employee Thursday alerted state health officials to contamination in tap water on the refinery property…

Denver Water authorities, notified around noon Friday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, immediately began testing the city’s water system for benzene, which can cause anemia, blood problems and cancer. Denver Water reviewed data from recent tests for benzene and found no elevated levels, utility spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said…

Over the past several weeks, however, monitoring along the creek found that petroleum is entering the creek directly without surfacing, said Warren Smith, a state health spokesman. “The dissolved material is coming in through the bottom of the channel, not through a seep on the bank,” Smith said. The state order requires installation of “an air sparging system” in Sand Creek — similar to a fish tank aerator — by Jan. 6. This is meant to help benzene and other contaminants in the creek evaporate into the air, instead of flowing into the South Platte.

The order also requires Suncor to install a soil vapor extraction system and dig a second “interceptor trench” by Jan. 31 to try to trap hydrocarbons floating in groundwater before they enter Sand Creek. Suncor has tried to make the first trench work better and is providing bottled water to workers, Smith said. Company contractors also have tested 50 of 57 buildings at the adjacent Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant for toxic vapors, finding problems in two. Toxic vapor removal systems have been installed along with a filter and a ventilator on other buildings, he said.

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

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