Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sand Creek Oil Spill CBS story

I am sure I am not making it on the CDPHE Christmas card list after this story played on the CBS news.

Fairly or not, the interview came out harsh.  I do stand by my statement that the initial response was a failure.  It needed to be clearly and succinctly stated and I would do so again.  It is my opinion, I knew while I was saying it that it would come out harshly and I do not think it is even a remotely unreasonable one.  I want to be perfectly clear that that is not a personal attack on the actual people involved though.  I am sure that it feels like it but in these kinds of situations I do not believe that it is people that fail but systems and processes. 

A long time ago I had a job as a quality/process control engineer in a manufacturing plant.  At one point I had to blow the whistle on aspects of the production process to the highest levels of the corporation.  I expected the workers involved to hate me.  On the contrary they thanked me.  The truth was that everybody involved truly wanted to make the best product possible but the process and culture was systematically forcing them to do otherwise.  In an enlightened response the leadership of the corporation came down hard on responsible management and the negative cultural forces instead of the workers.  I and others were given the full authority to fix the process and the pressure on the workers to do the wrong thing disappeared.  Quality went through the roof and I developed a gratifying relationship of mutual respect with the workers involved.  I learned a valuable lesson that I will never forget.  The overwhelming percentage of people do the best possible job that they can given the processes, resources, systems and cultural pressures that they are working with.

I honestly hope that somebody takes my opinion to heart and thinks about improving the system.  I have no doubt however that the people involved at all levels including CDPHE, Suncor and the Tri-County Health Department are good people.  Fathers, mothers, daughters and sons just doing a job the best they can with what they are given.


  1. Hello Mctage,

    I read your story, all te Post's articles, and the comments below them. Those were often disturbing, one comment this morning called what happened "steambank stabilization," and went on to say the result is of little consequence anyway as the DSP will eventually mix with goo from the Mississippi River anyway. This comment shocked me as have others, whose energy seems to be directed toward their political agenda, and that seems to utter, "see, I told you so," rather than be concerned with insuring the poluting situation is brought under control and can never happen again. Obviously state and federal agencies and their bureaucracy may need drastic alteration. In my opinion though, now, the public should demand that the spill is cleaned, that safeguards are enforced or added, and the DSP can become a regional destination for recreationists, city workers out for lunch, a clean source of water, (no water bottles please as suggested by many commentators,) and a piece of Denver to be proud of. THEN, work to insure, through our democratic process, that the changes that are sought occur. I realize that the DSP has become much better over the years as to the biotic community that dwells within, but from what I read there seems to be a lot of apathy that may seriously hinder environmental progress. You see, I have home waters also, so I understand the angst of anglers and users of your greenbelt. Now, if more if the general populace cared as much.
    I know this isn't the last word. I do really hope that this leads to satisfactory conclusion for all.


  2. You call the state health department to report an oil spill and they say "Can I call you back in 20 minutes?" And then it's another day before it's verified...? Good grief. Whatever harshness came across was warranted "The System." Good work, McTage.

  3. I agree with Erin, what ever harshness came across was warranted. And like you said above, the failure lies in the systems and processes of how these things are responded to, not the people. Well done.

  4. One person *can* make a difference, and you did. Good job McTage. I'm proud of what you did. Also, what you wrote about systems, not people, failing is very well-stated. I've never been able to define it that way but you captured it very well. Thanks for what you did.

  5. Hell of a job..if we don't start standing up to these corporations and other entities who are destroying our natural resources they won't be around for our kids to enjoy. Sometimes "harsh" is the only tone of voice that can be heard above the din of stupidity.

  6. You absolutely did the right and responsible thing. I commend you for standing up for water and public health.

  7. Gregg - I know one thing for sure, and that is that Denver TU is already talking about what they can do, and they have some pretty exciting ideas, some of which were already in process!
    EMB and Gang - Glad everybody else agrees that harsh was appropriate. Of course, we would all tend to have simmilar perspectives. This gets more and more distressing because every bit of news that comes out seems to hint that there shouldnt have needed to be a response in the first place!

  8. Layers upon layers of water bureaucracy, and a cell phone to prove it. Why is the L.A. River still waiting for a U.S. Army Corps study that would provide the go-ahead to revitalize the river? Money and ... you guessed it layers of bureaucracy. Why did the Cheonggyecheon river in Seoul get its facelift in two years? Political will, minus the layers.
    It's so great that you were there, Mctage, spotted it, reported it, then insisted on responsibility. This is our water. Thank you for seeing it through. -- Jim


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