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September 20, 2013

New flood-related oil spills reported in Colorado

DENVER —

More spills were revealed Friday in a Colorado oilfield swamped by floodwaters as cleanup efforts remained stalled due to high waters and regulators cautioned that more oil releases were likely to be found in coming days.

The latest spills included 2,400 gallons of oil from a toppled storage tank, almost 900 gallons from an unspecified source and two others from damaged storage tanks that involved unknown volumes.

That brings the known volume of oil released since massive flooding began last week along Colorado's Front Range to an estimated 22,060 gallons — about 525 barrels.

Most of the oil releases reported to date came from storage tanks or tank farms operated by Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Co. At least four of the releases reported by the company were in Weld County and spilled oil into the South Platte River or a tributary, according to information submitted to regulators.

It's possible other companies have suffered similar problems since flooding began last week but have not yet been able to assess their damage. An aerial survey of the flood area on Thursday revealed up to two dozen overturned oil storage tanks, state regulators said. Releases from those tanks could not be immediately confirmed.

With many roads in the area washed out, the sites remained largely inaccessible, preventing cleanup work from getting underway until water levels drop, said Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen.

"We've got a couple of amphibious vehicles and flat-bottom boats that we're using, but really until things have a chance to dry out and some of the infrastructure issues are sorted out, it's going to be difficult," Christiansen said.

Authorities in Weld County have said their concern over spilled oil is eclipsed by much greater volumes of sewage and other contaminants washing into local waterways.

In other developments:

— The number of people unaccounted for dropped to around 80 thanks to door-to-door searches and restored communications. Seven people have died and three others are missing and presumed dead.

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