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Tanker spills fuel into a tributary of the Yampa River

SHARE Tanker spills fuel into a tributary of the Yampa River

Utah officials have been advised to monitor Yampa River water coming across the Colorado border after diesel fuel from a wrecked tanker was spilled into the waterway.

Fish and wildlife downstream from the site of the tanker accident would be affected, Colorado officials say. The tanker rolled off the highway Thursday and leaked 7,500 gallons of diesel fuel into Williams Fork, a tributary of the Yampa River.A tanker driven by Robert F. Callahan, 43, of Westminster rolled off Colorado 13 and into the steam midday Thursday.

If fish are killed, the responsible party could be fined $35 per fish, said Todd Malmsbury, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. If endangered fish are killed, the fine would be much higher.

Hazardous materials teams from Moffat County and the Colorado State Patrol used absorbent booms to retrieve the diesel and tried to build a dam to contain the fuel, said Trooper John Sims.

The Yampa provides critical habitat to a number of fish species, including pike and endangered Colorado River squawfish. Other wildlife that depend on the river for water could also be affected.

"Anytime you have this amount of fuel in a river, it's a serious problem," said Steve Gunderson, director of the emergency management program for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The fact that the spill is diesel fuel and most fish will be hugging the bottom of the stream this time of year could be good news, Malmsbury said.

"It could just stick to the very top of the water and not affect the fish down below," he said.

Susan Jones-Hard of the emergency management program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said state officials have been notifying downstream river users of possible health hazards.

"The river is used as drinking water for the city of Craig, and they were notified," Jones-Hard said. Utah officials were notified as well.

Colorado State Patrol Capt. Rick Donner said the tanker was traveling south when it went off the side of the road. The cause of the accident is under investigation, he said.

Callahan was injured and listed in fair and stable condition at Memorial Hospital in Craig, where he was treated for lung complications, hospital administrator Randy Phelpps said.

Callahan was driving for Iowa Tank Line Inc. of Commerce City, Iowa.