UPDATE Monday, March 20th 10:30am–The Department of Ecology will deploy a sonar scanner sometime Monday to try and pinpoint the source of an oil sheen and diesel odor on the Columbia. Camille St. Onge, incident information officer with Department of Ecology said if the results are conclusive, a diver will be sent down to try and plug any leak or make a closer inspection. St Onge confirmed there appears to be no initial signs of damage to wildlife in the immediate area.
Emergency response crews placed a boom on the Columbia River near Wenatchee early Sunday morning to contain an oil sheen that is mysteriously getting into the river. Crews have been investigating since Friday and are unable locate the source of the petroleum-like substance.
The oil sheen was first spotted on the river Friday evening and a diesel odor was reported in the area between Thurston and Chehalis Streets in Wentachee. First responders included Chelan County Emergency Management, Chelan County Fire District 1, Chelan Pubic Utilities, City of Wenatchee, Washington Department of Ecology, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is supporting resources for investigation and clean up.
Efforts to determine where the sheen was coming from included inspections of a nearby fuel distributor, a BNSF rail-car switch station, a rigorous search through manholes and drain pipes, and an underwater camera. None of these efforts revealed the source. Ecology spill responders collected samples of the sheen for testing in hopes it will help identify the source.
Crews also conducted a day-long assessment of shoreline impacts Saturday. Help from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was enlisted to determine if any fish, birds, or other wildlife were affected by the sheen. Ducks, geese, a river otter, and a marmot were seen and none appeared to be coated by the sheen.
“We want to contain and recover as much of the substance as we can,” said Jay Carmony, onsite Ecology spill response lead. “Diesel fuel and similar products can be difficult to recover because they are light and evaporate quickly.” Carmony said that the fast moving river and high winds have been presenting safety issues for response crews but that efforts will continue and new strategies are being considered to find the source of the sheen.
WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) – Crews have placed oil absorbent boom on the Columbia River near Wenatchee to contain an oil-like substance that has gotten into the river.
The Department of Ecology said Sunday that crews have not been to determine the source of the sheen since it was first spotted on the river Friday evening. A diesel odor was also reported in the area at the time.
State officials say so far it doesn’t appear that ducks, geese and other wildlife have been coated by the petroleum-like substance.
Several state and local agencies have responded. They’ve inspected nearby facilities but haven’t been able to find the source. Ecology spill responders have collected samples to try to identify it.
High winds and fast-moving water have posed safety concerns for response crews. An Ecology spokeswoman says booms were deployed on the river early Sunday morning once conditions improved.