OAKRIDGE, Ore. (KMTR) -- While a massive clean-up effort of thousands of gallons of fuel continues on Highway 58 near Oakridge, crews say only minimal amounts of the oil product have leaked into the Willamette River
“I'm actually guessing the real product, very little of it went into the river. We were able to get out here quick enough to be able to capture it and keep it from going that's direction, says Tom Kichenmaster, Project Manager for the fuel spill clean-up.
Friday, March 16th, 2012, marks the fourth day since the fuel tanker crashed after running off the road near milepost 31. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality estimates that more than 5,000 gallons of gas and diesel spilled in the crash.
The outlook is promising though in keeping the fuel spill to the localized area of where the crash happened.
Nearly all of the fuel has stayed on the side of the road, opposite from the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. A DEQ representative who’s been on site all week, Wes Gebb says things “shouldn’t change a lot” in the coming days and that much of the work will continue to be the same, day to day.
On scene, crews from SMAF Environmental, the private contractor hired to clean-up, have been working at the site 24/7 since arriving on scene on Monday.
Thus far, more than 775 tons of fuel soaked dirt has been removed and taken to the Coffin Butte Landfill near Corvallis for disposal, where it will be used to make roads in the landfill.
Crews have also removed several trees that have been damaged by the spill, or need to be removed as part of clean-up work. The wood from many of the trees will be given to one of the local Oregon Native American tribes for use.
Crews are also still using underflow dams to keep any water from draining from the spill-side to the Willamette River.
Skimmers have completed most of their work removing spilt gas and diesel fuel off of the contaminated water.
After the excavation process finishes, crews will work on vegetation.
“We might try to do some of what's called "soft washing" of course the rain has held immensely with that to be able to get to an area where we can collect it,” says Kichenmaster.
“We may do some trimming of vegetation, we try to leave as much natural vegetation in place as possible, if you trim it, it will grow back and that's what we're hoping for,” says Kichenmaster.
SMAF Environmental doesn’t have a timeline on the clean-up work, but says it will at least last through the weekend.
Long-term, the U.S. Forest Service will come up with a rehabilitation plan for the site and work will continue there for about a year. The large scale work though will likely finish soon.
Water quality has been a large concern for many nearby residents, especially after crews revealed Thursday that fuel product was detected in the Willamette River.
While that’s true, the DEQ says the fuel detected in the river was “minute” and nearly undetectable.
The DEQ has four river water monitors. The two closest to the spill detected about 1-part per-billion, just over the detectable level. The other two monitors further down from the spill did not measure any detectable levels of fuel. Detection levels are decreasing though, according to SMAF and the DEQ.
“We're going to drive that number back down to the non-detection limit. We added a lot of resources again today. And we're going to continue the monitoring, we'll see if the numbers show that we're making progress, that we've made some good decisions on our clean-up,” says Web Gebb, The On-Site Emergency Response Manager for Oregon DEQ’s western region.
Monitoring also continues in some nearby Westfir residents’ water well. So far, that water has come back clean, with no fuel contamination.
Results from samples collected on Thursday, March 15th, 2012, showed less than one part-per-billion of benzene detected where runoff from spill site area enters Middle Fork of the Willamette River.
Nearby residents have been informed about the crash. Thursday night, DEQ held a public meeting with clean-up representatives about the on-going work. About 50 people attended.
For more information from DEQ on the spill clean-up, click the following link: http://www.deq.state.or.us/news/prDisplay.asp?docID=3836.