As of December 6, 2011, cleanup crews had collected between 2,730 and 2,814 gallons of the sludge in a 240-foot trench that they dug the prior weekend to stop the toxic flow from continuing to pour into Sand Creek.
The drinking water at the Suncor refinery has been contaminated with benzene, and on December 30, 2011, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a Second Interim Measure Order to Suncor requiring it to immediately discontinue the use of all potable water at the facility and to post a Drinking Water Warning at facility taps. In early January, 2012, nearly all 500 workers at the refinery had their blood tested for benzene. The results have been kept confidential.
Elyria is a small, largely impoverished neighborhood in close proximity to the Suncor refinery. A cancer study conducted in that neighborhood in 2003 revealed elevated, or higher than “expected,” rates of eight types of cancer - including some cancers associated with petrochemicals (derivatives of petroleum or natural gas). The Denver Post reported that state health regulators have known about underground contamination from the Suncor refinery for decades, and that state regulators became aware of new contamination under the refinery over the past year. Authorities point to poor lifestyle choices as the cause of Elyria’s abnormally high cancer rates, but residents suffering the effects of the latest spill believe the Suncor refinery and its poor track record for safety are to blame.