Steamboat Springs County officials were working Thursday to clean up after a minor oil spill that impacted a small wetlands area along Routt County Road 179 southeast of Milner.
The spill was not connected with an accident but appears to have resulted from rain water flushing oil out of an unused pipe that may be 25 or more years old.
“When I alerted the county commissioners to the situation, they said, ‘Get it taken care of it,’ even thought it isn’t the county’s responsibility,” Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf said. “I’m trying to identify the responsible party, but that’s been the difficult part.”
Zopf said the spill occurred on private land after one of July’s thunderstorms flushed residual oil out of a long-abandoned, three-inch pipeline. The spill, which he estimated at less than 10 gallons of oil, coated grasses in a wetland and left oil in a roadside pond about 200 yards above Trout Creek.
County Emergency Manager Director Bob Struble worked with Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, which used in the pond a boom of absorbent material designed for oil spills.
Zopf said that the county road was serving as a barrier between the spill and the creek and that no streams are threatened.
Landowner Arnold Lieske alerted Zopf’s office about the spill a week ago, and Zopf immediately notified the State Health Department.
Lieske had nothing to do with the spill, Zopf said. Instead, it’s apparent that a previous landowner may have removed a 1,000-foot section of the pipe, perhaps because it was interfering with agricultural operations. There are four or five oil wells in the area, but the lengthy section of missing pipe makes it difficult to tell where the pipe led. It likely ran from a storage tank at a well to another tank adjacent to the road, he said.
Zopf said a contractor that specializes in environmental cleanup is scheduled to clean the area of the spill.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com