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Yaquina River Oil Spill

Release Date: 1/28/2001
Contact Information: Jeff Philip
(206) 553-1465

January 28, 2001
For Immediate Release

Incident Background -- In the early hours of Saturday, January 27, a tanker truck accident on Highway 20 near Toledo, Oregon, resulted in the discharge of approximately 5,800 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil in an area directly adjacent tot he Yaquina River. Of the total volume released, a significant amount entered the river. The driver was killed in the accident.

Cleanup Status -- To date, approximately 3,500 gallons of oil have been collected for disposal and recycling. In addition, approximately 120 yards of oil-soaked soil has been excavated and removed. Nine yards of absorbent pom-poms have been collected and removed. Oil collection and recovery operations will continue throughout the night at a scaled-back level due to high winds and heavy rains. Emphasis will be on stabilizing the existing 14 boom collection sites and ensuring that they are securely anchored in place. A total of 4200 feet of boom is currently in place. Oil removal and disposal of waste materials continues. Road work on Hwy 20 is expected to be completed by noon Monday.

Recovery and repair efforts scheduled for Monday: Additional booming and collection of product downstream; fish and wildlife monitoring; excavation and removal of area surrounding the crash site; deployment of watercraft to address difficult-to-reach areas of the river for assessment and cleanup.

Community Leaders Briefing/Community Meeting Scheduled for Monday, January 29 -- A briefing for local elected officials and community leaders will be held at 12:00 noon at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. Members of the Incident Command will be present to answer questions and provide the latest operational overview. A briefing for the public will be held at 7 pm at the Aquarium.

Fish and Wildlife -- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) staff are surveying the river for signs of wildlife in distress. ODFW officials ask local residents who may see wildlife that appear to be in distress to call ODFW office at 541-867-4741 (Newport) and report the animal's locations. The public is cautioned not to touch wildlife that appear to be affected by the oil, as birds and mammals can be dangerous when they are stressed and may even suffer additional injury during handling.

At the time of this report, Fish and Wildlife biologists have recovered one (1) oiled Kingfisher and have spotted four (4) oiled Mergansers. They have also counted several beaver lodges in the vicinity of the spill, as well as fresh otter and raccoon tracks on the bank. Sampling in sediments and water quality is underway to evaluate the potential long-term threats to fish and wildlife.

The Yaquina River and its tributaries are home to a variety of creatures including salmonids (Chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout), mammals (beaver, otter) and ducks and geese. There are eagle nesting areas downstream of the incident site. Birds such as Eagles and Osprey can be harmed by secondary contamination when they consume dead or dying creatures that have been oiled.

The Product (Oil) -- No. 6 oil is a heavy, viscous petroleum derivative that is typically used as fuel by large marine vessels and industrial boilers but is also used for home and industrials heating. Like many petroleum products, its fumes are toxic and it can cause illness or death to fish and wildlife if ingested. Cleanup workers need to take normal safety precautions to prevent prolonged inhalation of the fumes and avoid skin contact. Removing products like No. 6 fuel from a river/marine environment can be difficult because the remedy can potentially inflict further damage on the resource. The process of removing oil from the banks can sometimes increase contamination or re-contamination downstream and in-stream recovery measures need to be conducted with care to avoid harming salmon spawning beds.

Responding -- Incident response team members include U.S. EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Blue Line Transportation (Responsible Party), Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Oregon Department of Transportation; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

General Information -- members of the public who have questions about the spill are encouraged to call Oregon DEQ at (800) 452-4011.
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