Aspen’s Cold War fuel tank already gone |

Aspen’s Cold War fuel tank already gone

Katie Redding
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” An emergency diesel fuel tank buried in Aspen at the end of the Cold War, recently pegged by the feds for removal, is already gone, according to Lee Cassin, the city’s environmental health director.

Although the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently released a list of problem tanks that indicated a Aspen tank needed to be inspected and removed, Colorado division of oil inspection records show it was removed in 1995.

The tank was buried behind what is now the Stewart Title building at 620 E. Hopkins Ave. At the time, the building housed KSNO, a local radio station.

According to former KSNO station manager Dave Johnson, sometime between 1983 and 1985, FEMA gave the radio station “really nice radio equipment,” a generator and a fuel tank. The emergency electricity was provided to sustain emergency broadcasts in the event of a nuclear attack or other catastrophe.

In the early ’90s, Al Vontz sold the station to Cliff Gardiner, and Johnson remembers Gardiner calling FEMA and asking it to pick up its emergency equipment. Gardiner says he no longer remembers anything about the fuel tank.

But according to records from a state division of oil inspection, the tank was removed in 1995. After reading an Associated Press article about the abandoned fuel tank last week in The Aspen Times, Cassin contacted the director of the oil inspection division, Mahash Albuquerque, to gather information about any plan to remove the fuel tank. That’s when Albuquerque told her the tank had already been removed by their department.

During the Cold War, the Federal Office of Emergency Management (FEMA) buried diesel fuel tanks near radio stations across the country. Since at least the 1990s, FEMA has been aware that the iron tanks can rust through, leaching diesel fuel into the ground and, potentially into the water supply. It must now remove all the tanks, or fill them with sand.

Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, the government has insisted on better-made tanks to avoid the problem of leaking fuel. The underground tanks of today must have safety measures, including leak detection and an extra shell made with material resistant to gasoline, diesel and ethanol, according to Pat Coyne, director of business development for Environmental Data Resources Inc.

Support Local Journalism