COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) – Crews from Suncor Energy are continuing to work to clean up an oily mess that has made its way into the South Platte River.

On Tuesday morning an Environmental Protection Agency emergency response team joined the spill cleanup effort, which involves booms positioned in Sand Creek to try and trap the spill.

Workers found the spill after getting a tip. It’s located near Interstate 270 and York and close to the Suncor Energy plant.

The spill is some type of hydrocarbon, but John Gallagher, Vice President of refining for Suncor, says he doesn’t know exactly what it is or where it’s coming from. He also said there’s currently no estimate of how much of the oily sheen has gotten into the Sand Creek waterway.

(credit: CBS)

“We’ve seen a slight sheen on the Sand Creek, and a very small quantity of hydrocarbon can create a very large sheen. If you take a drop of oil and put it into water you see it spread very quickly,” said Gallagher.

Members of the cleaning crew are wearing respirators as a precaution and keeping the public out of the immediate area.

Gallagher said he assumes the material belongs to Suncor and that’s why the refinery is isolating and cleaning up the mess.

“They do have ground water, soil contamination on site,” Robert Beierle with the state health department said.

The refinery has existed at the location since the 1930s and Beierle said there’s a history of fines and corrective action. Suncor is a relatively new owner with an improving environmental record. But just 4 years ago Suncor was fined more than $130,000 for health and safety violations at the refinery.

“Suncor has been very cooperative,” Beierle said.

So far there haven’t been any reports of oil-soaked birds or dead fish.


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