Officials updated on Sinclair fuel spill

Property owner opposes cartels

Beleaguered property owner Ray McCarty told Montezuma County commissioners on Monday that he would continue his fight against the oil cartels.

“I’m going to hammer it as long as I can hammer it,” McCarty told commissioners on Monday, May 12. “It’s unjust.”

For nearly an hour, McCarty addressed commissioners about a prolonged dispute over his three parcels contaminated with gasoline on U.S. 160. He asked commissioners if they would force the Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety to implement meaningful fines against Fraley & Co., Inc., for failed cleanup measures of his land.

“Crimes have been committed against property owners of this county,” McCarty said.

McCarty operated Wild Wild Rest, which consisted of a Sinclair Gas station and convenience store, between Mancos and Mesa Verde National Park.

The Sinclair closed in 2004, and in 2006, OPS deemed Fraley & Co. of Cortez the operator responsible for removing the tanks.

According to McCarty, when the above-ground tanks were removed, residual fuels flowed back through gas lines and spilled onto the land.

“There are three pipe bombs that are each 150 feet long, buried and filled with explosive petroleum liquids, end capped and under pressure,” McCarty told commissioners. “These road side IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) are awaiting detonation.”

Located within 60 feet of U.S. 160, McCarty said the “pipe bombs” could be set off by a lightning strike.

In April, the Colorado attorney general’s office wrote a letter to McCarty, demanding he direct all future correspondence to their office. The letter further stated officials were unable to follow through on a 2010 corrective action plan without his consent to access the property.

“The state has repeatedly offered to do all the necessary work at no cost to you,” penned Assistant Attorney General Alice Hosley on April 7. “Up to this point, you have refused to grant access to your property, which has been the only obstacle preventing the restoration of your property.”

McCarty, who still owns the property in question, disputed the lack of access claim on Monday. He has refused to vacate the premises to allow for proper cleanup, because he disagrees with the state’s plan to remedy the situation.

“Contrary to rumor, I have submitted an access agreement to OPS,” he said.

McCarty’s frustration led him last Spring to install a large orange banner visible from the highway that reads: Massive Petroleum Spill, Toxic Site. Skull-and-crossbones graphics bracket the message.

In a federal civil suit, a jury awarded McCarty $1 in damages, rejecting his claims that Fraley was responsible for the spill.

Mitigation would include removal of contaminated soil, re-contouring the property and installing monitoring stations at an estimated cost to the state of $200,000, according to OPS officials.

McCarty said 26 monitoring wells were drilled on site, most of which pierced the Mancos Shale Layer. He said groundwater is now contaminated with 400 times the allowable limit of ethyl benzene and toluene.