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EPA wraps up Des Plaines River oil spill cleanup

Release Date: 02/18/2009
Contact Information: (EPA) Mick Hans, 312-353-5050, Illinois EPA) Maggie Carson, 217-558-1536 (Illinois DNR) Chris McCloud, 217-785-0075 (U.S. Coast Guard) External Affairs, 216-902-6020

No. 09-OPA022

CHICAGO (Feb. 18, 2009) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 said today that most cleanup activities associated with the Feb. 8 waste oil release from Caterpillar's Joliet, Ill., facility are now complete. The work was performed with support from Illinois EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard Ninth District Marine Safety Unit in Chicago.

The release occurred when the facility's waste oil/water separation system failed. As a result, two waste oil collection pits containing about 65,000 gallons of oil overflowed, spilling onto a parking area and an embankment leading down to the Des Plaines River. Up to 6,000 gallons of the oil flowed into the river. About 90 percent of the spilled oil collected in a gravel parking area and on the embankment. Light river surface "sheening" was spotted several miles downstream from the Caterpillar facility. Commercial barge traffic on the river was halted for much of Feb. 8 - 9 to enable response teams to work.

Major cleanup work was completed by the morning of Feb. 11. The Coast Guard and Caterpillar contractors captured most of the off-shore spill with a boom and absorbent pad system. EPA and Illinois EPA supervised cleanup of the parking area and embankment by Caterpillar contractors using vacuum trucks. Illinois Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local officials coordinated shoreline surveys of wildlife and ecological resources. With the exception of the light sheening prior to the Feb. 11 rain showers, no significant impacts were observed.

Later in the week, the parking area and shoreline impacted by the spill were monitored for additional releases. Also, runoff from the rains was monitored to prevent recontamination of the cleaned areas. Next, Caterpillar will submit for EPA review a follow-up water and land sampling plan. Laboratory analysis of this work should be complete by April or May 2009. About 200 cubic yards of oil-stained parking lot gravel and other debris is now staged in rolloff boxes awaiting treatment and/or landfill disposal.

On a separate track, EPA is reviewing Caterpillar's required Oil Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures plan and monitoring systems. Regulatory consequences from the incident, if appropriate, will be announced at a later date.

Photos from the cleanup are posted on EPA Region 5's website:

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