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No public health risk after crude oil spills into San Juan River in southeast Utah, officials say

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Posted - Mar. 5, 2019 at 5:27 p.m.



MONTEZUMA CREEK, San Juan County — Officials say there is no risk to public health after a spill released five to six barrels of crude oil into the San Juan River on Friday.

The spill occurred at an Elk Petroleum site at Bucket Canyon, about a mile west of Montezuma Creek on Bureau of Land Management land, according to Kevin Okleberry with the Utah Division of Water Quality.

A broken valve at the wellhead gathering facility caused a mixture of water and crude oil to leak into a dry wash nearby, Okleberry said. The mixture then traveled about 3 miles to the San Juan River, and about 28 barrels, or 1,176 gallons, got into the river, he said.

Between five and six barrels, or about 250 gallons, of crude oil was in the mixture that got into the river, according to Okleberry.

As of Tuesday, the environmental damage at the site has been contained, and there is no risk to public health, he said.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Okleberry said. “Part of the reason it traveled so far is apparently there was ice and snowmelt in the draw and that allowed what would have been a relatively small spill to go farther down the draw into the river.”

A rainstorm also made some of the mixture run down the draw, according to Okleberry.

The Division of Water Quality is working with Elk Petroleum to monitor the cleanup, he added. The company is expected to release a follow-up report that will include details about the cause of the spill, which has yet to be determined, Okleberry said.

The Environmental Protection Agency determined that the company acted appropriately in aggressively attacking and containing the spill, according to Okleberry.

As of Tuesday, the EPA has determined that federal resources are no longer necessary at the spill site, and the agency is no longer at the scene, Okleberry said. Division of Water Quality employees will be testing the water in the river over the next week to make sure there is no contamination left over, he added.

Jacob Klopfenstein

KSL Weather Forecast