Fuel spill cleanup is more work than expected
GSPI News Editor
Cleanup of spilled fuel at Garfield County’s old road and bridge facility in Rifle is proving to be more difficult and costly than expected.
The county government may be forced to excavate contaminated dirt from the site following mixed success in trying to extract gasoline and diesel fuel through wells drilled from the surface.
The facility was used for road and bridge operations by the county until about a year and a half ago, when those operations were moved to the county’s 45-acre facility at the county airport just southeast of Rifle.
Since the site’s closure, the county has been following a state-approved plan to try to remove the fuel, while monitoring the site for contamination and possible impacts on groundwater. The plan was considered less intrusive than excavation.
At least some of the fuel was spilled from two underground storage tanks on the site. County manager Ed Green said some of the spilling occurred as the county was removing the tanks in the early 1990s.
Rather than trying to conduct the current cleanup on its own, the county hired Waste Engineering, a Denver firm.
The cleanup plan called for eight extraction operations, each three months apart, using a truck to vacuum the fuel from underground.
Green said the effort initially was working well. But about halfway through, the amount of fuel being recovered dropped, and monitoring wells indicated some of it was migrating.
Most of the migration is occurring within the county property. However, some fuel also is going under 18th Street and toward Rifle’s municipal pool.
The contamination is as much as 18 or 20 feet deep, said county engineer Randy Withee.
Green said it’s not clear how much of the contamination is coming from the county site and how much is from a nearby city of Rifle road and bridge facility on 18th Street that also had leaking tanks.
“There could be two sources of contamination or only one,” Green said.
Engineers also aren’t certain how much gasoline spilled from the county site.
One cleanup option for the county would be to increase its extraction operations from quarterly to monthly.
Under the excavation plan, contaminated dirt could be shipped to the county landfill at Anvil Points west of Rifle and used as fill, Green said. He said that action is permitted because the landfill has a clay liner that would keep the gas from migrating.
Part of the Rifle site is leased by the LIFT-UP nonprofit charitable relief organization, and part is used by the county for court operations. No fuel is believed to be beneath those facilities, and both could remain open during the excavation project.
So far, cleanup efforts at the site have cost the county about $150,000 to $200,000. It could incur another $100,000 to $200,000 if it decides to excavate, Green said.
However, the state government reimburses counties for state-approved gas cleanup projects if they are successfully completed.
The county probably would have to continue monitoring groundwater at the site for one to three years after completion, Withee said.
County officials discussed the contamination during the county commissioners’ meeting Monday. County attorney Don DeFord advised commissioners that the discussion could occur behind closed doors due to the potential liability issues involved, but commissioners said they wanted it to be addressed in public.
Commissioners Tresi Houpt and John Martin both expressed concern about the fuel migrating off the county property.
“That’s a piece of property we need to continue looking closely at,” Houpt said.
The county also is finishing a more minor fuel cleanup project at its old road and bridge facility on 7th Street in Silt. The town of Silt wants to buy that property once cleanup is complete.
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516
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