OAKRIDGE, Ore. (KMTR) -- State and federal authorities are continuing to clean up hundreds of gallons of spilt gas and diesel fuel alongside Highway 58 near Oakridge, a process that will delay drivers likely for the rest of the week, while challenging workers trying to mitigate environmental damage.
Oregon DEQ and federal Environmental Protection Agency workers are now coordinating the effort, cleaning up 4,200 gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline from the roadside near milepost 31.
The fuel spill happened Monday, March 12th, 2012, when a tanker truck carrying 10,000 gallons of gas and diesel ran off the shoulder of the road and overturned.
One tank carrying 5,800 gallons of gasoline didn’t spill a drop. The second tank carrying 4,200 gallons of diesel and gasoline spilled.
The driver involved, 60-year old Gary Griffith of Medford received minor injuries in the crash. Oregon State Police cited Griffith of failure to drive within a lane. Griffith was hauling the fuel for a Portland-based company called Cascade Petroleum Transportation, which is now paying for the clean up.
Which DEQ and EPA officials are monitoring the clean up now, a private contractor out of Prineville called “SMAF” is now doing the work.
Tuesday, crews spent most of their time stopping the fuel’s spread while assessing the extent of the damage, including taking some water samples. The cleaning work is happening near the U.S. Forest Service’s Middle Fork Ranger Station just outside of Oakridge.
The land involved is in ODOT’s highway right of way but is owned by the U.S.F.S.
Crews are cleaning an area extending about 100 yards along the south-side of the highway. The Willamette River is on the north-side of the highway.
“Our primary concern is to make sure that it doesn't get into the Willamette River,” says Kathy Parker, EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator.
So far, the spill has been kept away from the river, but crews say the fuel has contaminated the wetland’s surface water, ground water, soil, plants and trees. Crews aren’t sure if any wildlife has been affected yet.
“Also the adjacent land uses, you know, we have some homes nearby also that we'll be monitoring for that,” says Wes Gebb, Oregon DEQ’s State On-Scene Coordiantor for the Emergency Response Program in the western portion of the state.
It will be a little bit before we have some more specifics on the extent and magnitude issue but the monitoring in place and that will continue until the project’s done,” says Gebb.
Crews say they’re fairly confident they’ll be able to keep any fuel contamination from the Willamette River.
“They've got the pads and booms in place they need, they've built and underflow dam so that they can kind of keep all of the fuel on the non-river side of the road and things are going quite well,” says Parker.
Forest Service crews toured the site today. They’ll be directly responsible for a rehabilitation plan.
“What has been damaged, we'll be looking at heritage sites as well as wildlife,” says Katie Isacksen, Public Affair Specialist for the Willamette National Forest South District.
Anything that is removed from the site will be replaced including soil and plants.
Crews estimate that they may start digging up contaminated dirt by the end of Tuesday, March 13th, 2012.
Heavy lifting will keep Highway 58 closed down to one-lane with a pilot car leading the way likely through the end of the work-week. All of the work will be dependant on weather.