Oil Refineries, Your Water and the Environment

Commerce City Colorado, just north of Denver, is still being exposed to water pollution from an oil refinery leak that began almost a year ago.

The denverpost has been following this story since November of last year. The primary pollutant in this case is Benzene, a well known carcinogen. Apparently, efforts over the past few months have largely failed at both removing significant amount of this toxin and preventing any more from entering the environment.


Although almost 700,000 gallons of “material” have been removed over the past few months, recent measurements show that there are levels of benzene that are more than 400 parts per billion in affected bodies of water. Government mandated “safe” levels of benzene in drinking water must not pass 5 parts per billion. This is obviously major cause for concern when you realize that nearby waterways are being exposed to levels of benzene that are more than 100 times the limit of what is considered “safe”.

It turns out that this story is nothing new for this part of Colorado. This refinery site dates back to the 1930′s. State health officials have known about pollution incidents in the area for more than a decade now, making this the most enduring case of industrial pollution in Colorado.

The refinery company in question here, Suncor, has attempted to mitigate the problem to some degree. Last year they managed to pump out 209 million gallons of contaminated groundwater. This water was then treated and released into Sand Creek. Obviously, this is the least that they should do since they are the reason for this toxic mess to begin with.

Not surprisingly, Suncor has not received any fines even though the pollution they have caused due to their business practices has contributed to benzene levels that have been tested to be more than a 1,000 times the legal limit. Sadly, the little that has been done to repair the environmental damage here only occurred when the EPA finally stepped in.

When will ethics and environmentalism finally trump the power and influence of the almighty dollar? Hopefully sometime soon. We are running our of rivers and waterways to pollute.