Tar Sands Pipeline Oil Leaking into South Platte River in Colorado

south platte river colorado

Yep, a broken pipeline at a tar sands oil refinery pipeline seems to be leaking crude oil into the South Platte River in Colorado. Clearly, another score for the “we need the tar sands pipeline” crowd (… that is, the oil companies, their bought politicians, and FOX News).

Details on how much crude oil has leaked out or how long it’s been leaking are not yet available.

“State officials are currently testing the water on the South Platte River, a major source of drinking water, wildlife habitat and agricultural water for Colorado and the Midwest,” Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) writes.

But concerning levels of benzene and volatile organic compounds at the Denver Metro Wastewater plant have been enough to warrant a partial plant closure.

“The spill was discovered on Sunday morning by Trevor Tanner, a fisherman who saw sheen on the South Platte River and said the area smelled like a gas station.” More from him:

I walked several hundred feet up Sand-Creek and there was an oil sheen the whole way and there was even a weird milky chocolaty sludge trapped in the small back-eddy below the confluence.  My fly smelled like gasoline.  My fingers smelled like gasoline.  I could see micro-currents and upwells in the water column that you usually just can’t see.  Something was terribly wrong.

After calling the hotline for such disasters (and having to call back 20 minutes later per the spill response coordinator’s request), officials from the EPA were sent out to check on the situation and Suncor reported a leak (Monday). Suncor and EPA dug a trench on Tuesday. And, on Tuesday, “EPA officials announced that three small booms erected on a bank of Sannd Creek appear to be containing the oil and preventing further contamination.”

“If the leak involves tar sands diluted bitumen, the contamination could be more severe,” NRDC notes. “Tar sands diluted bitumen spills are associated with significantly more submerged oil which cannot be contained by surface booms. Spill responders are still struggling to handle the submerged oil at Enbridge’s Kalamazoo oil spill.

More on this story on NRDC.

South Platte River photo by photokayaker

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