What's in black ooze near Colorado river? Benzene and a mystery

Denver leak
For now, you might call it the mystery ooze.

The makeup of a small amount of black “gasoline-like” material leaking near the South Platte River, a key source of Colorado’s drinking and agricultural water, remained something of a cliffhanger Thursday afternoon.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials told the Denver Post that the goo, which has been seeping into a local creek for days, contains cancer-causing benzene. Its spread appears to have been contained.

A Suncor Energy refinery near the small plume is responsible for the black muck, the company’s vice president of refining, John Gallagher, told the Associated Press. But Gallagher was unsure of its exact source or components.

The Commerce City refinery produces jet fuel, gasoline, diesel fuel and asphalt. It reported a leak this summer from an underground pipe, Colorado health officials told the AP, but it was unclear whether that was the black liquid’s source.

Environmentalists feared that the goo might contain Canadian tar-sands crude oil, which makes up at least 10% of the oil refined in Commerce City, the AP said. That type of crude oil is particularly thick and troublesome to mop up.

Thus far, tests have shown no signs of such crude in the gunk, the Post reported. And officials have not found any dead birds or fish.

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--Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: A worker cleans up a chemical film on top of the water in Sand Creek north of Denver in Commerce City, Colo. Credit: Ed Andrieski / Associated Press

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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