LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — A large amount of fuel spilled into Bear Creek on Monday morning and caused a mess at the intersection of Dartmouth Place and Dartmouth Avenue. The spill started after someone siphoned gas from a semi-truck in Lakewood using a tool many have around the house: a drill.
Monday was a long day for hazmat crews who were called to the scene around 7 a.m. to clean up gallons of spilled fuel. John Romero, with the Lakewood Police Department, told FOX31 it was an estimated 200 gallons of diesel fuel that poured out into the street and into Bear Creek.
“Obviously, this was a very big mess this morning,” Romero said.
He said sometime between midnight and 6 a.m. Monday, someone drilled a hole in a semi-truck’s gas tank. It was parked outside The Crossings at Bear Creek, where the driver lived. While trying to leave for work that day, the driver noticed the spill around 6:30 a.m.
“There’s not just one, but two tanks on rigs such as this,” Romero said. “You have a 100-gallon tank on each side. One of those itself would be a substantial spill. Both are much worse.”
Romero said that siphoning is up nationally right now, but admits he’s never seen anything of this magnitude in Lakewood. The suspect’s motive is still unclear, but it’s no surprise that gas prices have skyrocketed, and fuel is considered liquid gold to many.
“Obviously, gas prices are hurting everybody right now,” Romero said. “As far as a clear motive on this case, we do not have that.”
Fuel spills into Bear Creek, residential area
The amount of fuel the thief got away with remains a mystery. However, a lot of the precious cargo was puddled on the street and a lot made its way into Bear Creek.
“A substantial amount was spilled into the water system,” Romero confirmed.
Lakewood Police said most of the fuel flowed into the drainage areas that lead into Bear Creek, which runs behind the apartment complex where Lauren Willis lives and frequently walks her dog, Maggie.
“That’s scary!” Willis said. “She won’t swim in the water without drinking it, so I don’t want her to drink anything toxic.”
Willis said she is concerned about Maggie and all wildlife, sharing she saw a blue heron along the creek on Sunday.
“Bear Creek Trail is highly trafficked,” Willis said. “There’s a lot of wildlife down there, so my first thought is how sad that is for there to be gasoline now.”
Hazmat crews placed white booms in Bear Creek to soak up the fuel and mitigate the spread. Despite the sheer size, Romero says things could have been worse.
“Drilling into a gas tank, one spark and that’s 200 gallons of fuel that’s going to ignite,” Romero explained. “As terrible as this was and the environmental damage that it did, it also could have been worse.”
EPA responds to fuel spill along Bear Creek
FOX31 reached out to the Environmental Protection Agency, which said the city of Lakewood is taking the lead on the response but did confirm Lakewood and Denver teams deployed boom at downstream locations to capture residual diesel. An EPA spokesperson also said no adverse impacts to drinking water are expected.
Romero said the smell of gas may linger in the area for the next few days and the person responsible could face charges of theft and criminal mischief, as well as possible federal charges.
Lakewood Police are asking for the public’s help in finding the thief or thieves responsible. If you know anything, you are urged call the department immediately.