DENVER (CBS4) – Suncor Energy says the spill of oily material flowing into Sand Creek has been contained.

Crews for the company have been working since Monday to secure the problem and clean up the mess.

Suncor operates a refinery in Commerce City. Teams are still trying to pinpoint the exact source, but they’re checking out a report by Suncor of a damaged pipe that runs between the refinery and a storage tank.

A fisherman told CBS4 he reported the leak more than a day before authorities were able to find it. The fisherman’s story raises questions about the state’s spill hotline.

“I could just smell it,” Trevor Tanner said.

Trevor Tanner (credit: CBS)

Tanner was fishing where Sand Creek joins the South Platte River when he noticed an oily sheen on the water.

“It was clearly coming out of Sand Creek,” Tanner said.

It happened on Sunday morning. Using his cellphone, he called the state health department, persisting through several menu options to finally reach the spill hotline manned by a duty officer.

“His first question was, ‘Can I call you back in 20 minutes?’ And I got offended at that point,” Tanner said.

The duty officer apologized and took his information. Tanner left to fish elsewhere, but throughout the day, health officials called Tanner back to say they were looking but couldn’t verify the spill.

“I came up with the number that said hotline. I thought, ‘Here it is. This is who I need to call and they’re going to come in sirens blazing.’ That’s not the response that I got.”

Tanner made the right call, according to the spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Mark Salley. He said his agency acted appropriately.

“To make it look like we were sitting on our hands is not accurate in any way,” Salley said.

Salley said Tanner’s information was forwarded to the Tri-County Health Department. Someone from that agency did check the river, according to Salley, but found nothing.

It took another day for the Environmental Protection Agency to confirm the oil spill on Sand Creek.

But Tanner believes the EPA response on Monday was at least partially due to his posting the detailed story Sunday in this online blog.

“Maybe people feel that’s a rapid response. I feel that’s a failure,” Tanner said.

The EPA is still processing samples of the water to figure out what the substance is while Suncor crews work to keep it from reaching the South Platte and eventually stopping the leak altogether.

“We are sampling this material. We did a series of samples throughout the day,” EPA coordinator Curtis Kimbel said.

The work will continue through Wednesday night into Thursday and crews are already anticipating the colder weather and freezing temperatures expected overnight.

“We’ll work through the night regardless of whether it snows or not,” Kimbel said. “They’ll be here for the duration.”

Comments (5)
  1. hookxlkz says:

    Good day everybody. I thought that I should introduce myself here.
    I am seriously pumped up about talking with everyone with regards to sportfishing.

  2. aiquoy says:

    and shame on the officer for asking him to call back in 20 minutes

  3. aiquoy says:

    So the response wasn’t speedy enough?
    Yes, the doctor saved my dad saved my dad from cardiac arrest. But it took them 2 minutes to do it. They should have done it in 30 seconds. Our nation needs to shift it’s focus from reality-T.V. to REALITY. They got it done. FAST. When I was in Salt Lake City and Chevron had an oil leak, they weren’t anywhere near as effecient as SunCor apparently “wasn’t”. Kudos for doing the right thing and calling, but please, for your good, start making more realistic expectations.

    1. salita says:

      Two days is fast to you? LOL. Well I worked in the Oil and Gas industry for decades and SunCor’s reaction would have been considered disastrous – both slow and inept – and heads would have rolled.

      Your comparison is not a valid one btw . . . Your dad and heart attack and two minutes and your dad was saved . . . wait, what? Dang . . . ever hear of apples and oranges? Beside you have no idea how many lives were lost due to the spill and then how many more due to the slow response thereafter. I am of course referring to lives along the river’s extremely important but fragile Eco-system.

      Not sure what this has to do with reality t.v. Of course I don’t watch t.v. period so there maybe a show that has environmental issues addressed but I doubt it.

  4. John Amos says:

    Anyone who witnesses or suspects an oil or hazardous material spill should also report it to the National Response Center (NRC) by calling their hotline at 800-424-8802. You can also file a report online by filing out a form at the NRC website ( The NRC will then distribute that report to state and local agencies.

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