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Cleaning up questions about fuel spills, dump stations

The landowner at the former Wild Wild Rest has been very thorough in warning everyone who drives along U.S. Highway 160 west of Mancos that there may be a serious problem. Nice touch with the orange cone. Action Line photo

Dear Action Line: What’s the dirt on the old gas station between Mancos and Cortez that has all the environmental poisoning signs posted in front of it on U.S. Highway 160? “Got cancer yet?,” skull and crossbones and such. – Hopefully Cancer Free

Dear Cancer Free: It’s one of those things: At first that place shocks you, and then over the years it just becomes part of the lay of the land. The former Wild Wild Rest (great name, eh?) is just outside Mancos. If you’re going west toward the Mesa Verde National Park entrance, it’s on your right (north) as you start to head uphill.

It was once a Sinclair gas and convenience station and site of an RV park, rodeo arena and motorcycle races. We’ll have to make this quick, but here’s a recap in sentence fragments.

Station closes 2006. Spillage 6,000 gallons fuel during tank removal 2006. Cleanup and mitigation fail. Landowner Ray McCarty sues cleanup company 2010. Gets $1 (yes, $1!) in U.S. District Court. Landowner not happy, puts up “toxic site” signs to get attention. Neighbors not happy. Sinclair not happy, takes back dinosaur-logo signs. Landowner not happy.

(You still reading? This is great stuff.)

Groundwater contaminated by benzene and toluene? Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety says it’ll clean up, monitor site. Corrective Action Plan approved 2010, Division says access not granted. Landowner denies this. Division installs three groundwater monitor stations off-site, says “no immediate health concerns” in 2016.

Action Line. … Out of breath. … Back. … To normal. … Speed.

There is no on-site or off-site monitoring being done at this time, Mary K.V. White, remediation supervisor with the Division of Oil and Public Safety, told Action Line. The property owner has not granted access, she said, so the Corrective Action Plan cannot start.

“Off-site monitoring that has been conducted indicates that the contamination has not migrated off-site,” she said in an email April 22. “There has been no indication of an immediate health risk.”

The Division of Oil and Public Safety held a meeting with Montezuma County commissioners and Department of Natural Resources in September, and the county is in the process of pursuing access to the property, White said.

Dear Action Line: I'm trying to understand why after spending around $55 million on a new sewage treatment plant, a public RV dump station was not included (like there was with the old sewage plant). That seemed logical, and it was convenient not only for locals but also for traveling RVers/campers. I'm sure there is some reason? – Need the Straight Poop

Dear Straight: Although the answer wasn’t communicated exactly this way, it could be said that the city was doing RVers a favor in the past, and decided a dump station was not a high priority when it came to time rebuild the new treatment plant.

The goal of the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility, which ended up costing about $58.3 million – the largest single construction project in city history – was “to increase our treatment capacity and improve water quality (predominantly to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous, otherwise known as ‘nutrients’),” said Jarrod Biggs, the city of Durango’s assistant utilities director.

A dump station was not a high priority, and was never included in the plant and park design. According to a 2019 story in The Durango Herald about the plant’s completion, apparently the issue didn’t come up at the time.

Biggs noted that several other options exist for RVers.

And that is true. Action Line, with a nose for these kinds of things, smelled out a few dump station options.

Action Line confirmed that Tarpley RV has one behind its store that is open and free to the public. There’s also a free RV dump at the Giant gas station next to Twin Buttes. It’s right next to the car wash, between the air hose and vacuum.

Oops. There is no Giant station next to Twin Buttes. It is now a Speedway – when did that happen? Ha! There’s a way to find out:

Dear Action Line: When did the Giant station on U.S. Highway 160 become a Speedway? – Action Line

Dear Action Line: Here we go again talking to ourselves. Didn’t we go through this a couple months ago? (No! Don’t answer that!) The answer is that a dozen Conoco, Shell and Giant stations in Southwest Colorado were rebranded as Speedway stations in June 2019 after being purchased by Marathon Petroleum Corp. in October 2018. So it’s been about two years. Glad you finally noticed. Can we get back to the RV dump station question?

Dear Action Line: Sure. Not a whole lot more to say. There are several other local dump stations at RV parks. Most are free for guests, and some are available to the public for a fee, usually $8 to $15. A list at sanidumps.com looks fairly up to date, but Action Line does not vouch for it. And you can find a bunch of similar lists on the web.

There, that’s enough to dump on you today.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301.