Silverthorne wrestles with pollution problem at Sav-O-Mat station |

Silverthorne wrestles with pollution problem at Sav-O-Mat station

summit daily news

SILVERTHORNE – Silverthorne Town Council members are struggling with how to proceed with cleaning up contamination at the Sav-O-Mat gas station – as well as concerns over whether the contamination has reached the Blue River.

The gas station has benzene contamination levels that vastly exceed the state’s standards. Benzene, a known carcinogen, is a colorless, highly flammable gasoline additive.

Martin Eckert, of Eagle Environmental Consulting, said contamination levels have been measured at 15 parts per million at monitoring wells installed on site. The state’s standard is .005 ppm.

A fuel release – likely caused by a combination of tank seepage, several small spills, and spilled fuel gathering in potholes before seeping into the ground, Eckert said – was discovered sometime around 2005 or 2006. Eckert was one of two representatives from a firm that contracts with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment-Division of Oil and Public Safety to clean up sites around the state. The two appeared before the Silverthorne Town Council on Thursday, bringing the remediation need to the attention of the town council. Town staff has been working with Sav-O-Mat owner Buzz Calkins for at least a year to plan how to proceed with remediation.

The benzene contamination flows with the groundwater, Eckert said, but so far, it’s unknown how quickly it moves and in what direction. Eckert said his firm has yet to install monitoring wells on the Blue River side of Highway 9 to determine the extent of the impact. They await Colorado Department of Transportation approval for those wells. Town council members expressed fear that it was moving toward the Blue River – if it’s not there already.

Questions surrounding Sav-O-Mat’s deteriorating property, which has not been kept up to code, arose during Thursday’s discussion. Installing above-ground remediation equipment requires a building permit, the issuance of which requires an up-to-date site plan.

Because the state is ready and willing to fund a remediation procedure and Calkins has been unwilling to bring his property up to code, town officials granted permission for Eagle Environmental Consulting to move forward with monitoring on town property to determine the extent of the benzene plume.

“That will leave an incentive for the property owner, who is responsible for the cleanup, to submit a site plan to allow the vertical construction” as part of the remediation system, the town’s legal advisor Jerry Dahl said.

Installing remediation equipment – which includes an above-ground shed that requires a building permit – normally means bringing the property up to current town code. Other needed equipment includes remediation wells with concrete vaults, an above-ground storage tank, vapor carbon absorbers and piping.

Eckert came before Silverthorne Town Council Thursday to request town council waive the need to bring the property up to code to install the required equipment.

The firm cites a section of town code that allows a waiver for government and quasi-governmental entities doing work in the public interest. Eckert claimed that because the State of Colorado is funding the work, it’s a government entity applying for the waiver. Town officials disagreed, saying a private entity is responsible for the remediation.

The property dates to 1972. Correspondence on record since the 1990s shows the property has had sign, zoning and building code violations throughout the years, town planner Lina Lesmes said. She added that a site plan was submitted in April 2010, proposing site improvements, but was allowed to expire in June.

“At this time, Sav-O-Mat, Inc., no longer wishes to proceed with full site plan improvements, but is requesting permission to delineate and remediate the soil and groundwater impacts associated with the gasoline station activities,” Lesmes said.

According to a town report, in 2007, the town granted right of access that allowed Sav-O-Mat to investigate contamination. In 2008 and 2009, the state worked with Calkins to establish a corrective plan, and in September 2009, remediation wells and piping were installed on site and on the adjacent town property. Since then, conversation has ensued between the owner and town officials about how to proceed with remediation that conforms to town code and is done on Sav-O-Mat property.

Town council members entered into a tug-of-war between enforcing town codes and moving forward with remediation. They expressed desire to come to the table with the landowner – who was not present at the meeting – to move toward a satisfactory solution for all parties.

“I do want to enforce the code. I’d like to see a little more cooperation from this landowner,” town council member Bruce Butler said. “But I also don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we don’t want to sit around here and have swords out while contamination runs into the river and everything else.”

State officials have notified town officials that if the Silverthorne Town Council does not grant access to move forward with remediation, the state will retract funding for this particular cleanup process, and the contamination becomes the town’s responsibility. If Sav-O-Mat can’t or doesn’t move forward with remediation, it could be charged $5,000 per tank, per day until the corrective action plan is implemented, Eckert said.

SDN reporter Janice Kurbjun can be contacted at (970) 668-4630 or at

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