[mit-i-gey-shuhn] noun
1. lessening the force or intensity of something unpleasant, as wrath, pain, grief, or extreme circumstances

The situation down on the South Platte and Sand Creek continues to evolve. This river is near and dear to a lot of anglers here in Denver – I was happy to see continued mitigation work when I visited the site again earlier in the week. Here is a photo of Tim Romano fishing Sand Creek – ground zero of this spill – during better days, this past summer.


Obviously what has happened is bad. This isn’t over. This mitigation effort is just beginning.

For those of you not caught up on what is going on, here is a recent excerpt from the Denver post:

“U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean-up coordinators today said the black goo leaking from the Sand Creek shoreline north of downtown Denver is a “a gasoline-like material” that contains cancer-causing benzene.

Highly-toxic, benzene has been linked to leukemia and federal authorities have determined that even minute amounts are harmful.

EPA lab test results released Thursday evening indicate benzene concentrations ranging from 2,000 parts per billion where liquid enters Sand Creek to 480 ppb where the creek enters the South Platte River — well above the 5 ppb national drinking water standard.”

For more coverage from the post:

On a positive note, it appears that mitigation efforts are being mandated.

Here are a few excerpts from from the December 1, 2011 Notice of Determination issued from John W. Hickenlooper, Governor, issued to Mr. Gregory P Fletcher, Senior Remediation Advisor at Suncor Energy.

“On Sunday morning November 27th 2011, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment received its first notice of possible surface water contamination near the confluence of Sand Creek and the South Platte RIver – a report of an oil sheen being visible on the water’s surface. On Monday November 28th we receive first notice of a possible situation involving vapors intruding into a building housing a laboratory on the Denver Metro Wastewater Treatment Plan property , which adjoins the Suncor Energy Commercial City Facility. The vapor in the laboratory appear to be deriver from petroleum hydrocarbons located in the subsurface.”

“These new developments only emphasize our limited understanding of the contamination present at the refinery, particularly beneath the northwest corn of the refinery that has migrated onto the adjoint Denver Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant. The contamination is evidently more extensive and mobile than originally believed.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment hereby determines that additional work is required to protect human health and the environment and orders Suncor Energy go perform the following inter measure by the specified deadlines:

  • Suncor Energy shall conduct daily inspection along Sand Creek and the confluence with the South Platte River
  • Suncor Energy shall establish surface water sampling points along the south bank of Sand Creek and the South Platte River
  • Suncor Energy shall immediately commence the process of securing access and sampling indoor air in al building located on the DMWTP to determine air quality
  • By no later than December 31 2011 Suncor Energy shall have constructed and commenced operation of an engineered system that intercept all light non aqueous phase liquid before it has an opportunity to daylight and enter Sand Creek
  • Suncor Energy shall immediately begin investigating groundwater beneath the DMWTP for two primary purposes. 1 define all areas where the dissolved phase contamination is enter Sand Creek and the South Platte river 2) define all areas where LNAPL may be entering Sand Creek between int confluence with the South Platte Rive rand ground water monitoring wells.
  • Suncor Energy shall cleanup all signs of staining by oil that may have coated the banks of both Sand Creek and the South Platte River including solid an vegetation. This cleanup must be completed by no later than March 1 2012.

This letter was issued by Walter Avramenko, Unit Leader, Hazardous Corrective Action Unit
Full text:

If you are reading this, if you live in Denver, if want to do something about it, I invite you to come to the next Denver Trout Unlimited meeting on Tuesday January 24th. The meeting is being held at REI downtown. You don’t have to be a member of TU, just come down and hang out – you will find a ton of folks who care a lot about the river. DTU is an organization that is committed to making positive changes on the South Platte.

Stay tuned. This story – and the DSP – is not going away.

Follow up to: S. Platte Bitten by Benzene Attack

Will Rice
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