EPA investigating diesel fuel found in Breckenridge pond
July 9, 2010
BRECKENRIDGE – Diesel fuel has been bubbling up into a fishing pond west of Highway 9 in a Breckenridge industrial area for about a week, but the source of the pungent contaminant is unclear.
“It’s a mystery to everybody right now,” said Joe Dudley, operations manager with Alpine Rock Co., which shares ownership of the pond with the town of Breckenridge. “Last week we noticed an odor and an oil sheen coming off the water there.”
Dan Hendershott, Summit County environmental manager, said finding the contaminant is like finding a “needle in a haystack” since obvious causes such as rolled-over semi-trucks have been ruled out.
The oil sheen on Thursday was contained with booms at the south end of the former dredge pond just west of the intersection of Highway 9 and Fairview Boulevard.
People from the Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Office of Oil and Public Safety and local authorities are investigating the contamination’s source.
Hendershott said fish are still swimming in the pond, and no wildlife appear to be affected.
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Authorities involved are trying to narrow the scope of possible sources – which could be anywhere from a quarter- to a half-mile south of the pond – by drilling monitoring wells, he said.
Chris Tatro, owner of Snowbridge Roto Rooter at the pond’s south end, said it’s “not a spill,” but “nobody knows what it is.”
A few nearby industrial companies with above-ground diesel tanks have been asked to drill wells to see whether any of their tanks could be leaking.
The cause could be as obscure as a tank buried 60 years ago that has ruptured, Hendershott said.
The pond is indirectly connected with the Blue River; water is filtered through a few hundred feet of underground soil which “has a very good capacity for filtering and cleaning water,” he said.
“We don’t have any established connection where we suspect this diesel is entering the Blue River,” he said, adding that such contamination would be a “much bigger concern.”
People with nearby drinking-water wells are encouraged to call the county’s environmental health department with any questions at (970) 668-4070.
“The investigation is in the early stages, but all agencies and businesses involved are taking this release of fuel very seriously. We are committed to finding the source and getting it cleaned up as soon as possible,” Hendershott said in a county press release.