Tanker spill near Lyons killed “an incredible amount of fish” in North St. Vrain Creek, mayor says – The Denver Post
Wildlife and environmental protection agencies say they are investigating the scope of damage following a semitanker crash outside Lyons on Tuesday that spilled 500 to 1,000 gallons of fuel near the North St. Vrain Creek.
Dana Barnicoat, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8 public information officer, said the EPA is providing assistance in the cleanup process. The amount of fuel that entered the North St. Vrain — which is about 20 feet from the spill site — remains under investigation, Barnicoat said.
Officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are helping assess the aftermath of the spill on aquatic species and wildlife. While it isn’t yet known how many fish have died, Barnicoat said “significant fish kill” was reported as far as three to four miles downstream of the spill.
Jason Clay, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson, said the types of fish that had been found dead as of Wednesday were brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout. None of those fish species are endangered.
Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, the EPA tweeted that the source of the spill had been contained, but that there may be an “intermittent slight sheen observed on the water.”
The EPA is helping to test the water, as well as providing technical assistance in air monitoring around the scene. A boom — a water barrier — was placed in the creek to help contain leaked fuel, Barnicoat said. Contaminated soil will be excavated. As of Wednesday, Barnicoat said it was not known how much soil would need to be removed.
“We anticipate this cleanup action to take three days to a week to complete,” Barnicoat said. “We will continue to update the public with information that becomes available. Our main concern is that we’re being protective of the environment and human health.”
The semitanker, carrying 8,500 gallons of gasoline, rolled just after noon on U.S. 36 between Lyons and Estes Park, near the Apple Valley subdivision. It was the only vehicle involved in the crash. The driver was hospitalized with minor injuries.
Colorado State Patrol Trooper Josh Lewis said the driver’s speed while traveling around the curve of the road is being investigated as a potential cause of the crash. How fast the driver was traveling isn’t yet known.
U.S. 36 will be closed at Apple Valley Road during daylight hours for several days to allow for the EPA to clean up the spill, according to a CDOT news release.
A contracting crew was able to upright the semitanker on Wednesday.
Lyons advises no one go into river
The Lyons Board of Trustees gathered for an emergency meeting Wednesday with the EPA.
Lyons Mayor Nicholas Angelo said the town was proactive in its response to the situation. He said signage had been posted along the water, advising that no one go into the river. Victoria Simonsen, town administrator, said the signs will be in place through at least Friday, with officials re-assessing the situation at the end of the week. If people smell gas, they should stay out of the water.
“We lost an incredible amount of fish,” Angelo said. “The St. Vrain is a very highly regarded fishery, because we are catch-and-release. I’m working on trying to replace the fish.”
Angelo said that while town officials were bracing to have to potentially wash every rock in the river, they learned Wednesday that cleanup measures won’t be that extreme.
“Rivers, for all intents and purposes, cleanse themselves,” Angelo said. “We will just have to replace the fish.”
A Wednesday news release from the town said sunshine and the river’s current would help the gasoline dissipate. The release said the situation is now considered a private insurance claim that the EPA, state and county will bill out to. Lyons is not financially responsible, the release said.
For Apple Valley subdivision residents, Joyel Dhieux , the EPA’s on-scene coordinator, said agency officials are working with Boulder County Public Health to review water well depth and location in the area.
While Dhieux said impacts to water wells aren’t anticipated, one well that is roughly 20 feet from the spill is being tested. It is the only well that may experience “possible impacts,” Barnicoat said.
Residents who want to have their well tested can find a list of certified labs at bit.ly/3eBZvbP.
Ken Huson, Longmont’s water resource manager, released a statement Wednesday saying, “There are no current or expected future impacts on the city’s treated water supply.” He said the EPA was managing the spill and had a “robust water quality monitoring program” under way.
Longmont city leaders Tuesday said all of the water supply for Longmont and Lyons was diverted at the Longmont Dam, above the spill. Staff also closed the head gate to the Oligarchy Ditch, so impacted water wouldn’t flow through the city or reach Union Reservoir.
CPW seeks public’s help in investigation
Colorado Parks and Wildlife also is asking the public to help determine the impacts of the spill on aquatic life.
If people have found dead fish, they’re asked to share pictures and the location by contacting CPW at [email protected] Clay asked people not to touch or remove the fish from where they are found.
There were numerous reports of people trying to rescue fish Tuesday by pulling them from the water. Anyone who trapped fish is asked to also contact that email address or CPW’s Denver office during regular business hours at 303-291-7227. Clay also warned people not to eat the fish.
Water quality officials believe the spill’s “main event” is over, Clay said.
“A lot of that stuff is going to be washed downstream and it’s going to break up and dilute,” Clay said. “As far as land wildlife, it doesn’t sound like there are big concerns at this point, but again, I think it will take a little bit to fully understand the scope.”
Clay said CPW staff doesn’t have major concern for wildlife eating the dead fish. Animals would be deterred by the smell of gasoline, he said. Still, Clay said staff will be monitoring for this situation.
Work at the site is expected to continue throughout the weekend, the EPA tweeted. The agency will post updates on the situation on its website at bit.ly/3dXXabW. People can contact Barnicoat with questions or concerns at 406-560-6261.
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