Potential Environmental Disaster in Woodland Park Averted

Gas Tank Roll-over and Spill Leads to Extended Road and Shopping Center Closure

Trevor Phipps

Photos Courtesy of OEM Director Jay Teague

Early last week, local emergency crews responded to the scene of a single-vehicle traffic accident involving a semi-truck.

The situation, occurring in the center of Woodland Park, sparked concerns of serious environmental contamination and a potential disaster, with the temporary shutdown of a main shopping center and roadways near the accident, and a clean-up operation that extended for days.

Emergency crews were alerted Tuesday morning to the scene of a gas tanker rolled over near a gas station on Hwy. 24 near the main downtown corridor.

According to notices sent out by  Woodland Park Police Chief Chris Deisler, the driver of the semi-truck misjudged a turn when entering the Loaf ‘n’ Jug Gas station parking lot located near the intersection of Hwys. 24 and 67 in downtown Woodland Park from the Gold Hill South Shopping Center.

Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District’s Deputy Chief Dean O’Nale told KKTV 11 News that around 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the parking lot after the tanker rolled over the retaining wall. “At about 6 o’clock, we got a call about a tanker rollover,” O’Nale told KKTV. “First arriving crews got on scene and found a tanker loaded with diesel fuel that had rolled after coming through one of the parking lots.”

Even though the spill was contained to the parking lot, authorities decided to shut down Hwy. 24 between the intersection of West Street and Hwy. 67 to conduct mitigation procedures. Traffic was diverted through Woodland Park’s residential neighborhoods. They also shut down the City Market shopping plaza so that hazardous materials cleanup crews could clean up the spill.

To move the truck, the hazmat crews had to first remove the remaining  more than 5,000 gallons of fuel inside the truck’s tank. Authorities were also concerned about the fuel leaking into the city’s drain water and sewage systems.

“Our Public Works crews have started working on damming and diverting the diesel fuel that got into the storm water system,” O’Nale told KKTV early on in the process. “We currently have a primary and secondary dam set up which is capturing all of the spilled diesel fuel. And we are waiting for the rest of the environmental cleanup crew to show up to start working on the process of solving this problem.”

The operation to remove the rolled-over tanker took several hours. The highway was reopened early Tuesday afternoon, but operations at the shopping center continued until later in the afternoon.

Clean-up Efforts Progress Well

And then according to Teller County Office of Emergency Management Director Jay Teague, cleanup within the cities continued for the next few days. Teague said last Friday that crews made good progress on the cleanup operations.

“We were able to get all of the loose product extracted before we got the rains on Thursday,” Teague said. “We did not get any readings past our last containment berm so we had absolutely nothing going downstream.”

He said that the mitigation company conducting the work was happy with the progress that had been made by the end of last week, but they were continuing testing and monitoring. “The concern was not necessarily the residual that was left along the shore or the banks where the runoff was,” Teague explained. “It was actually a lot of the product that had saturated the ground at the spill site underneath the pavement. But even with the rainfall we have had, it is still not taking anything down range.”

A few days after the accident occurred, pictures popped up on social media showing crews working in an area downstream from the spill behind the Safeway grocery store. “We actually caught the bulk of the product right there at the storm drain behind Safeway,” Teague said. “The storm drain up there close to where the tanker spill happened, and everything between there and the storm drain behind Safeway is either paved or a concrete bottom so there was very little ground loss. Most of that diesel actually ran all the way down and out that outlet behind Safeway.”

Teague said that due to the crews’ prompt action the diesel was contained. “We were able to have the retention pond built before the diesel got that far, so as it did come out we were able to catch it all,” Teague stated. “And then we pumped it out with industrial vacuum trucks. We actually sucked it all out of there and they even took some of the soil out with the vacuum trucks. They are going to be taking more of the soil out from the residual on the banks just to make sure 100 percent of it was removed.”