Extent of Capitol Creek fuel spill contamination being assessed | AspenTimes.com

Extent of Capitol Creek fuel spill contamination being assessed

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A fuel tanker spilled along Capitol Creek Road Thursday afternoon. Environmental crews are assessing the level of contamination of the soil.
Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office |

A private environmental-hazards mitigation company said Friday it will likely have to remove soil contaminated along Capitol Creek Road when a gas tanker overturned Thursday.

Teams from Ecos used booms, pads and kitty litter Thursday night to contain diesel fuel and gasoline that mixed with water in an irrigation ditch. The crews contained and soaked up the liquid after the overturned tanker’s cargo was unloaded into another truck and the vehicle was set upright.

Ecos will send soil samples to a laboratory to test the level of contamination, according to Mercedes Fradl, an environmental coordinator with Ecos.

“We will be removing some soil,” Fradl said. “It definitely is a mess.”

She said Ecos is still studying to see if the fuel reached Capitol Creek.

“It followed an irrigation ditch down to two pastures,” she said of the spill. The question is whether it reached the creek after the pastures.

Once the lab analysis of the soil samples is complete, Ecos will work with area landfills to see where the soil can be taken, Fradl said. It cannot be determined at this time how much soil will have to be removed, she said.

Kurt Dahl, environmental health coordinator for Pitkin County, said the state Health Department will oversee the cleanup. Dahl visited the site Thursday and again Friday.

“When we were out there, you could still smell gasoline,” Dahl said. The irrigation ditch connects to Capitol Creek, so an assumption must be made that some level of fuel made it to the creek, he said. Capitol Creek converges with Snowmass Creek about 2 miles from the spill site. Snowmass Creek runs into the Roaring Fork River roughly 4 miles from the spill site.

Dahl said there was no direct evidence of fuel in the waterways.

“We didn’t see anything that was an obvious sheen,” he said.

Nevertheless, his department issued a standard notice to private and public drinking water providers in the area about the spill. Dahl said he also contacted the state water commissioner’s office to inquire about contacting any rancher or landowner irrigating water from Capitol Creek for crops and livestock. The office informed him most agricultural diversions probably haven’t occurred yet, he said.

The fuel tanker operated by Roaring Fork Valley Co-op was loaded with 1,500 gallons of diesel and 1,100 gallons of gas while traveling upvalley on Capitol Creek Road to make a delivery. Several ranches are upvalley from where the accident occurred. Tanker driver Bernard Nygaard, 65, of Rifle, became distracted, according to Colorado State Patrol Corp. Shauna Swale. Nygaard was looking at a map or retrieving other information when his wheels dropped off the right side of the road into the ditch, Swale said. The truck overturned onto its top at about 12:45 p.m.

The first responders from Basalt Fire Department witnessed fuel coming out of the truck in a steady stream, according to authorities. It later slowed to a trickle. Firefighters dammed the irrigation ditch upstream from the site and pumped the water across the road so it wouldn’t mix with the fuel.

The truck was turned upright and the road was reopened by about 8 p.m., allowing the Ecos crew to contain and mop the site.

Based on the amount of fuel that was transferred, authorities estimated 518 gallons of gas and 23 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the tanker.

Swale said Nygaard was cited for careless driving. He suffered cuts and bruises in the accident but wasn’t taken by ambulance to a hospital, she said.