The South Platte River: Don't Drink the Water

The South Platte River: Don't Drink the Water

Carol Berry

Charging that federal and state environmental and health officials have not protected the public from toxic industrial waste flowing into the South Platte River from an oil refinery, about 150 Denver-area activists took to the riverbank—and in some cases, the river itself—to obtain water samples for independent testing.

Suncor Energy’s refinery in the north metro Denver area processes more than 90,000 barrels of oil daily, about half of which comes directly from the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta, Canada, according to an ad hoc umbrella organization for a variety of environmental and social justice groups.

Measurements of the potentially cancer-causing benzene emitted have shown levels ranging from 100 times to 20 times higher than the federal health standard of 5 parts per billion, demonstration organizers said. Suncor is using aeration, test wells, and trench structures to contain contaminated groundwater, and the company plans a variety of other measures.

Scott Jacket, Ute Mountain Ute, of the American Indian Movement-Colorado, charged March 10 that Suncor had announced a cleanup plan that to date has not been completed. “They’re not cleaning it up,” he said. “They’re not doing anything.”

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