The Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety plans to clean up contaminated soils at the long-abandoned M&M Truck Stop this summer, officials have announced.
The move opens the door for potential redevelopment of the graffiti-riddled and deteriorating site, which has become an eyesore on the south porch of Cortez at the intersection of County Road G and U.S. Highway 160/491.
In 1994, a 1,500-gallon diesel spill from a storage tank contaminated the soil at the site, but it was never fully mitigated. The truck stop and restaurant closed in 2001.
Ownership has changed hands several times, including through a delinquent tax sale process. In 2017, Jovian Petroleum Corp. of Houston took over ownership, according to the Montezuma County assessor’s database.
Efforts by the Division of Oil and Public Safety to enforce removal of the contaminated soil by responsible parties have not been not successful.
So the state agency decided to take the lead role on mitigation and seek to recover costs from the property owner. The total cleanup costs are still being assessed.
“OPS has assumed all liability and has taken over the cleanup of the M&M Truck Stop under permission from the current owner, Jovian petroleum,” Julia Fraser, Oil and Public Safety lead coordinator, said in an email to Montezuma County officials Feb. 11.
Monitoring wells by Oil and Public Safety showed the diesel spill plume reached 5 feet into the soil and exceeded threshold standards for chemicals, including benzene, according to site assessment reports.
On Feb. 12, contractor Eagle Environmental was issued a notice to proceed on a $50,000 final assessment of the site to determine the extent of the contamination plume, and develop an accurate plan for soil excavation.
Based on the results, a scope of work will be prepared. An excavation is planned for June or July and will take one to two weeks to complete, said Rob Herbert, remediation supervisor of Oil and Public Safety. The excavated areas will be filled in with fresh soil.
“The priority for OPS is to remove the risk to human health and the environment,” Herbert said.
The Montezuma County landfill is certified to accept the contaminated soils, said county Administrator Shak Powers.
No groundwater wells are within 2,500 feet of the spill site, according to Oil and Public Safety reports. Underground and above-ground fuel tanks have been removed, and it is up to the property owner to decide whether the building will be torn down or renovated.
News of the cleanup decision was well received by county commissioners and staff, who had recently announced efforts to seek a solution to improve the site.
“We appreciate the state and Jovian stepping up on this,” said Commissioner Keenan Ertel. “It is a great property for redevelopment.”
A development consultant, Ruff-Rhodes LLC of Houston, has partnered with Jovian Industries to revive the site, officials said.
“We have been visiting Cortez quite a bit, and the fact this site is on a major north-south freeway makes it an ideal business opportunity,” said Tommy Ruff, owner of Ruff-Rhodes. “We’re proud to help revitalize the corridor leading into Cortez.”
Dollar General recently announced plans to build a store on the southwest corner of the intersection, across from the M&M site.