Spill cleanup nears completion in Kirtland

Fire chief says material is nonhazardous and never reached nearby irrigation ditch

Mike Easterling
A puddle of spilled dust suppressant spreads across the sand Saturday at an XTO Energy site near county roads 6261 and 6100 in Kirtland.

KIRTLAND — A spill of a liquid dust suppressant Friday on County Road 6100 just south of Kirtland largely had been cleaned up by Saturday afternoon, and none of the oily material reached a nearby irrigation ditch, according to a fire official.

San Juan County Fire Department District No. 1 Chief Donovan Mack said the spill was reported at approximately 10:30 a.m. Friday at a storage site near the northwest corner of county roads 6100 and 6261 north of the San Juan River. Mack said the black liquid was derived from tree sap and has been designated as nonhazardous.

A sign on the property indicated it was operated by XTO Energy. A message left at the company's San Juan County headquarters was not returned Saturday.

State officials also responded to the scene and oversaw the company's cleanup efforts. The leak apparently originated near the south end of the property, close to CR 6100.

Mack estimated that approximately 300 gallons of the material had flowed onto the easement adjacent to the road, although he did not know how much had leaked onto the company's land. Mack said he was told the spill was the result of a leaking valve.

He acknowledged that the material looks like oil and said he understood that passersby may have mistaken it for that. But he said the dust suppressant is made of organic material.

"There's no petroleum in it," he said.

He also said that cleanup crews stopped the flow of the material before it reached the irrigation ditch.

"It never reached that point," he said, adding that workers used a backhoe to stem the flow. "It was probably 50 or 60 feet from the irrigation ditch."

Most of the material was removed with a pump, he said, and the company will be removing the contaminated soil.

Mike Easterling covers education, health and the environment for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.