DENVER, Colo. —Environmental Protection Agency authorities were trying to determine the extent of environmental damage caused by a fuel tanker crash that occurred in the Denver area Saturday near Loveland Ski Area. Authorities investigating the crash say that the driver of a diesel tanker was driving too fast to properly navigate a hairpin curve on U.S. 6, causing the truck to rollover on the passenger side and spilling about 4,000 gallons of diesel in Clear Creek, a 66-mile-long tributary of the South Platte River.
The driver of the tanker truck received minor injuries in the crash but was not taken to a hospital for treatment. According to the Denver Post, the truck, owned by Gilco Transportation of Rifle, Colo., had been hauling 7,200 gallons of fuel. When it toppled, manhole-size covers on the top of the tanker opened up, releasing about 4,000 gallons of diesel immediately into the creek, which ran red because the fuel had been dyed to identify it for use in farm machinery.
Dead fish were seen floating along the creek immediately after the spill, according to some reports. 9News.com reported that a fisherman fishing downstream from the spill Saturday pulled up handfuls of dead and dying insects from the creek.
Thomas Schneider of Sunrise Anglers in Littleton, told the Denver Post that “Fish were visibly in distress … They seem to be in the death throes, where they would go on their sides and then flick wildly to right themselves.” He later reported that instead of dead fish, what he found were “fish in almost a stupor. You can walk right up to them and almost touch them. It’s like their vision is severely impaired.”
Mr. Schneider told the Denver Post that the spill seems to have killed off all the insects around Clear Creek. “The one thing I have noticed is absolutely no bugs in the air. I have been on that stretch with clients a lot in the last two weeks and the amount of bugs popping (before the spill) was incredible — three or four different caddis, PMDs, midges, beatis and red quills. . . . They have been wiped out.”
State Patrol Sgt. Mike Baker told the Denver Post that the spill posed “a number of dangerous possibilities” and that “everybody who has a stake in downstream of Clear Creek has been notified.”
First responders to the crash pumped the tanker’s remaining load of fuel into a container. Several officials from federal, state, and municipal agencies also arrived on the scene to assist in clean-up and investigation. Responders on the scene built a retaining pond to collect some of the fuel and deployed booms to absorb more of the diesel that had made its way further downstream.
According to Summit Daily, clean-up and remediation work on-site and downstream has since been taken over by BELFOR Property Restoration, with the Colorado Department of Health supervising the efforts.
“The goal is to restore (Clear Creek) to its natural state,” Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Adrian Driscoll told Summit Daily, adding that it would likely take several more weeks for the spill to be “fully mitigated.” He told Summit Daily that other older spills in the area continue to be monitored, some of them 10 years after the accident. Gilco Transportation will be billed for the cleanup and remediation costs, which will likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.