Friday, December 2, 2011

More Thoughts on The Sand Creek Oil Spill

The Suncor Sand Creek petroleum disaster has profound implications on many levels.

On a purely personal and emotional level I have found the whole experience extremely distressing.  The DSP is my river, my shrine, my temple and being the one to find it being desecrated was crushing.  I love this river and am far from alone.

Will Rice from the Drake has a talent for capturing the odd emotional connection so many of us have with this river.  I really enjoy his work which often manages to combine a series of quirky thoughts and images which seem oddly or even trivially connected into a profound package that speaks to me.  He touched a nerve in this slide show video that I highlighted just less than a month ago.  I refuse to watch it right now because this time I really will cry.  Will published an article today titled S. Platte Bitten by Benzene AttackThis article perfectly captures the knot of emotional confusion and distress juxtaposed with a unlikely sense of hope that I am feeling in a way that I probably can't communicate.  

I am also concerned with what this says about the capability of our government to enforce and regulate the environmental laws that protect our precious natural resources.  I fear that this and other trends are indicators that we as a nation are on the path to in some small way repeat history.  In previous generations the Denver South Platte could not support higher life forms, the Cleveland River burned and environmental disasters were buried wherever somebody could find a convenient rug to sweep them under.  This is a grave thought.  When considering such thoughts our emotional fears have validity but there is a time and place to set them aside.   

I could be biased because Bruce Finley was a key player in getting the ball rolling on verifying the spill.  Nevertheless in the area of fair, balanced, detailed and accurate coverage I have yet to find anything even remotely approaching his Denver Post article Cleanup orders at Colorado's Suncor refinery spill into Sand Creek officially issued.  When Bruce interviewed me he continuously made a point to steer the interview away from conjecture and emotion towards the facts and it shows in his article.  He has provided the most accurate and complete coverage I have found.

This article contains a significant amount of information that is disturbing or even frightening but I see something else right now.  I may just want to see it.  It may be that despite my best intentions I simply cannot discard emotion.  Nevertheless I see some hope.  Some indication that at least once the shit hits the fan our environmental agencies still have teeth.

I see other reasons for hope. 

Denver Trout Unlimited (of which I am a member) was already working hard to protect the DSP.  Without their influence I would have not have known that I could, and perhaps no even that I should call somebody.  That knowledge should provide a level of gratification that can only galvanize and energize the effort.

The Greenway foundation is still here and they are truly a force to be reckoned with.

Finally the fishing and other recreational usage of this wonderful resource will continue to increase.  As more and more people discover and grow to love this unique urban oasis polluters will find it harder and harder to accidentally or even maliciously desecrate the DSP.  We are the front line.     


  1. I think there is reason to be hopeful. In the bad old times there weren't any people like you or the Trout Unlimited folks fighting the good fight. The news of this has even made it over to the Western Slope TV stations where I live, but I heard it first from you. Keep blowing the horn! And....Thanks

  2. I seem to be here often lately. I know many of Mr' Rice's many writings. This post was great. Those carp were obviously killed from the current pollution. And,several of the ingredients mentioned flowing into Sand Ck./DSP were those of solvent for head cement. There was a warning not to drink from Sand Creek,uh, duh. This makes concerns for my own fisheries seem miniscule. Keep us posted.


  3. I try to be hopeful about things like this, but it's an obviously uphill battle at best. Sometimes I think all we can do is wait for the next disaster to happen and then raise hell when it does so someone cleans it up. But the thing is - it will happen again. Maybe on my homewaters next time, or yours again, or someone else's. All we can do is be the boots on the ground and blow the horn when we see it as you did.

  4. Keep fighting the good fight sir. You will be remembered well and long for your efforts. And admired too, like you are now.


  5. Unknown - I know that it is particularly a struggle balancing energy and environment on the western slope right now. I hope it goes down right.
    Gregg - That warning was very very odd since it mentioned Sand Creek (Which nobody but wildlife would ever have reason to drink from) and does not mention the South Platte which provides drinking water for many many people.
    Ty - Boots on the ground is a perfect description.
    Barry - I am afraid I have been a little too apathetic in the past and not always fought the good fight. that too has gotta change.

  6. Trevor, you are a credit to the sport. Don't despair, you will discover, as you have already, that there are many others who not only share your concerns but also love for the resource. This is tough stuff to witness first hand but by stepping into the fight know that you are not alone. Thanks for being one of the good guys.

  7. No need to worry...

    Spokespeople from Suncor, with heavy support from Reuters, CBS, Fox, and others outlets of impeccable journalistic integrity say that the "spill was less than a barrel", that it has been contained, and that the South Platte was not affected.

    The sheen on the surface of the DSP downstream of the confluence was just your imagination running wild Trevor. Just like the oily sheen observed today by others, a full two days after these miraculous proclamations.

    Move along folks.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. MG - You and our mutual friend have me tied in knots. Like you said, a mutual friend witnessed continued sheen in the DSP and yet this has been reported as "contained". Multiple contradictory quantities have been reported for the discharge. I tried to calculate the discharge and could get wildly different quantities based on assumptions and have now decided that I am not qualified to make those calcs. I ended up writing two comments that were probably unreasonable and irresponsible and deleted them because basicly at this point I don't know what the heck to think. I know that the parts per billion test results are scary and that I have not seen anything in that area published that indicates real success with the mitigation. I know that what I saw and smelled was scary and that what our mutual friend reported still is. I am going to take a half day and freeze my butt off checking it out today.

  11. I went, I saw, I feel better. I will work on a post tonight but my tone is positive right now. Not saying all is well because there are some signs of residual issues in the South Platte but you have to look hard. Really hard. It was a sharp contrast to last Sunday where it was very obvious something was wrong.

  12. Sanctions in these cases ultimately result in a monetary fine. I'm not so politically-correct. Something more painful might be called for ... like a rifle butt in the chops for Suncor's prez.

    I know, but why destroy the beauty of the punishment with legality ?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.