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Massive fuel spill cleanup continues

Caused by Sept. 24 crash on U.S. Highway 26 on reservation


by: PETER MURPHY/ODOT - A hazardous materials cleanup crew has removed soil contaminated by a fuel spill adjacent to U.S. Highway 26, about 23 miles northwest of Warm Springs. Crews have excavated a 14-foot deep trench, extending at least 288 feet, at a width of 45 feet.A hazardous materials cleanup crew has been working for more than two weeks to remove contamination from a massive fuel spill that has undermined U.S. Highway 26, about 23 miles northwest of Warm Springs.

A temporary lane on the south side of the highway will allow motorists to bypass the spill as crews continue to remove contaminated soil. "As a consequence, motorists can expect slowdowns and short delays on the busy highway, as crews control traffic by flagging alternating directions onto the temporary lane," noted Peter Murphy, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The spill occurred just after 9 p.m. on Sept. 24, near milepost 81, when a fuel tanker struck a bull elk on the highway and overturned, spilling approximately 3,500 gallons of gasoline and 1,500 gallons of diesel.

SMAF Environmental, of Prineville, is expected to remove 5,000-6,000 cubic yards of contaminated material to a temporary facility about a mile away, according to Murphy. "They've determined that it's considered solid waste, so it can go to a facility with no further treatment."

The cleanup is being supervised by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, assisted by ODOT.

"I just took some of the tribal leadership out there," Warm Springs Fire and Safety Chief Dan Martinez said Monday. "It's an extensive project. There's definitely diesel fuel that got under the pavement, heading away from Beaver Creek."

Martinez said the spill was about 100 yards from Beaver Creek, which has not been contaminated.

by: PETER MURPHY/ODOT - A hazmat cleanup team is continuing to work to remove soil contaminated by a fuel spill along U.S. Highway 26 on Sept. 24. The spill, which took place on the Warm Springs Reservation, occurred when a fuel tanker truck struck a bull elk and overturned."It's become a 24-hour operation with flaggers there," he said. "For every gallon of diesel spilled, there's a cubic yard of dirt that needs to be removed."

Martinez, who was the first on the scene of the crash and has been monitoring the cleanup, said the tribes are not contributing to the cost of cleanup, which is expected to exceed $1 million, and be paid for by the trucker's insurance.

"We're looking at the assessment. Some prime trees were removed," he said. "There are a lot of concerns with environmental issues and, of course, the inconvenience to traffic."

"We want to make sure the community is aware of it," Martinez said. Drivers are urged to use caution in the area, where cleanup is expected to continue until the end of October.




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