Tar Sands Crude Spills Into Denver's Water Supply

News broke yesterday that "toxic oily muck" was spilling from a refinery into a creek in Commerce City, outside Denver.

Suncor Energy, the company that owns the petroleum refinery (the only one in the state, though you can't miss seeing or smelling it if you drive past), has said the spill is contained and that the cause is under investigation.

Reuters reports: "The Canadian energy firm said it had not yet identified the source of the leak, but acknowledged it was likely coming from its 93,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in the area. It said plant operations were unaffected."

Different story for the water, however—a creek that runs into a river that is a major source of drinking water for nearby Denver has definitely been affected. According to Environment News Service, the spill was discovered on Sunday "by local fisherman Trevor Tanner, an aerospace engineer and South Platte conservation advocate, who saw oil on the water and said the area smelled like a gas station."

ENS reports:

High levels of benzene and volatile organic compounds at the nearby Denver Metro Wastewater plant made closure of a technical services building necessary and have forced employees to wear respirators.

Today, workers contracted by Suncor used vacuum trucks and absorbent material to suck up water mixed with an unidentified liquid.

Tar Sands
It's worth a special mention that the spill involved tar sands crude oil. ENS wrote, "Suncor is the oldest of the tar sands producers; up to 90 percent of its production is derived from tar sands bitumen." Reuters said Suncor is Canada's largest oil and gas producer, and said the company expects tar sands output to hit 300,000-310,000 bpd this year."

The refinery plant recently underwent, according to Reuters, a $540 million upgrade in order to handle oil sands crude from Canada, which is heavier than conventional crude, extra-toxic, and extremely inefficient to produce.

More on tar sands oil:
350 More Ducks Killed In Canada's Toxic Tar Sands Tailing Ponds
Tar Sands, Banking Crisis, & Peak Oil - Mired At The Crossroads
Economic, Environmental Costs of Developing Tar Sands & Oil Shale 'Unthinkable'Your text to link...

Related Content on Treehugger.com