Reports of toxic spills spiking

Rural counties struggle to respond to calls, and cleanup often is left to the polluters.

Hazardous-waste spills and discoveries reported to Colorado authorities nearly doubled over the past decade, from an average of 561 a year from 1998 to 2000 to an average of 1,035 from 2005 to 2007. Population growth, carelessness, and the boom in oil and gas drilling are largely to blame. Much of the increase comes from rural Colorado, where towns often lack equipment and training to deal with the growing number of incidents. Some count on volunteers, or Colorado State Patrol troopers, who respond as soon as possible to contain spills yet lack resources for actual cleanup.

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