State signs off on Aspen airport fuel spill efforts
Hundreds of gallons of jet fuel spilled by a contractor at Aspen’s airport in September have been remediated, though the contamination remains in the ground, according to state and local officials.
In addition, new policies have been put in place to make sure the contractor and airport officials notify local fire and environmental health officials — which did not happen in September — in the event of another spill.
“I am happy to report that the state has determined that no further action is required for the fuel spill — the spill has been fully remediated,” Atlantic Aviation general manager Jonathan Jones wrote in an email earlier this week.
The remediation work at the fixed-base operation area was completed in November and certified by a state official last month, Jones said. The remediation work on the estimated 1,300 gallons of spilled jet fuel, which was done by a contractor, cost less than $100,000, he said.
The fuel did not reach water sources, according to Jones and state and local officials.
Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine and Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Director John Kinney, who both monitored the cleanup efforts via email updates and conference calls, said they were satisfied with the remediation efforts. The state also was content with Atlantic’s efforts.
“Based solely on information submitted, it appears you have removed the source of contamination and reduced the potential for endangerment to human health, safety and the environment as a result of the contamination at this property,” according to a letter from K. Hannah Phillips, environmental protection specialist with the state’s Division of Oil and Public Safety. “OPS does not require any further investigation or remedial action at this time.”
An Atlantic Aviation employee overfilled one of the four 25,000 gallon fuel tanks at the fixed-base operation area Sept. 21, and spilled approximately 1,300 gallons, Jones has said. The employee didn’t follow company protocols and failed to check the full tank before filling it, he said in September.
Approximately 200 gallons spilled outside a containment area and was immediately cleaned up by a hazardous materials team, while another 1,125 gallons or so soaked into a designed fuel-spill containment area at the tank farm, Jones said in September.
The spill covered about 20 feet of surface area, while the fuel soaked about 3 feet deep into the ground, though the depth varies a bit, Phillips said in a phone interview Wednesday. The contaminated soil did not have to be removed from the ground, however, because it does not exceed concentration standards, she said.
Also, the contamination poses no threat to humans or water sources and is not on publicly-accessible land, Phillips said.
“The contamination wouldn’t cause a threat to any receptors,” she said. “(The soil) was left in place.”
The state does not inspect the site after it is remediated, and relied on documents submitted by Atlantic, she said. Should any issues with the contamination arise in the future, Atlantic will be responsible for dealing with them, Phillips said in her letter.
The water table is 158 feet below the surface at the spot where the spill occurred, Kinney said in September.
Airport officials notified the state of the spill immediately after it occurred as required by law. However, they did not tell local fire or Pitkin County law enforcement or public health officials it occurred. Balentine heard about the spill from a newspaper reporter and wasn’t happy.
“I was upset about it,” Balentine said in a recent interview. “I was shocked they didn’t call us and tried to mitigate it on their own. Their job is not to mitigate major fuel spills or protect structures from fire.”
Kinney admitted afterward that emergency personnel should have been notified, as required by a sign posted at the tank farm, though he said airport personnel responded ably to the spill.
“(Atlantic Aviation) did not (call 911) and they should have done it,” he said. “Our folks also should have called 911.”
Balentine said airport officials have been receptive to his concerns.
“We did implement some new policies,” he said. “If there’s a 25-gallon spill or more (in the future), they need to call us. Aspen Fire will get called.”
Kurt Dahl, the county’s environmental health director, said Wednesday he’s spoken with airport officials and that his department will be told of future spills. In fact, he said a small amount of de-icing liquid spilled in November and he was notified about it.
“So, it appeared to me that corrections have been made,” Dahl said.
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This summer in Aspen is likely to include indoor and outdoor concerts, maskless gatherings and no state or county-mandated restrictions on social distancing at restaurants or anywhere else.