Aspen airport construction unearths decades-old fuel spill
A construction crew excavating at the Aspen airport unearthed a decades-old fuel spill that will have to be cleaned up before remodeling work can continue, the facility’s director said Friday.
“It’s a pretty small area, … probably about 5 yards,” said John Kinney. “It appeared to be very old.”
The construction crew was working outside Thursday near the baggage ramp area on the terminal’s south side and was attempting to install footers for a trailer and a tent that will house the hundreds of delayed bags the airport receives, he said.
Workers cut through about 6 inches of asphalt, then 6 inches of roadbase, then dug another foot or 2 down, when they noticed the color of the dirt became darker and they could smell an odor of fuel, Kinney said.
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The area was not wet with fuel, and airport firefighters extracted some of the material and determined it wasn’t flammable, he said.
Airport officials contacted Pitkin County’s Environmental Health Department and the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment and reported the situation, he said. A contractor tested the soil and found it to be either diesel or jet fuel, Kinney said.
Because it is either diesel or jet fuel, the dirt can be disposed of at the county landfill, Kinney said. It will likely require moving about 5 cubic yards of dirt. The landfill charges $500 for a truckload of contaminated dirt, so the cost of cleanup won’t be high, Kinney said. Cleanup measures should begin when the weather clears.
Kinney said he didn’t know where the contamination might have come from and that the baggage ramp has been located in that spot for at least 20 years. He speculated that something might have spilled there back in the 1960s or ’70s, or that someone may have possibly dumped out a 55-gallon drum in the area.
The added baggage area also is part of an effort to expand the passenger waiting area at the airport, which involves moving the gift shop and administration offices.
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With “hands-on” off-limits as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold across the United States, Colorado and Pitkin County, emergency first-responders are having to tweak the traditional ways they go about doing their jobs.