A massive fuel spill on Highway 99W near Adair Village has caused traffic detours and delays for the past 10 days as the state clears contaminated soil and repairs the road.
But Monday the situation worsened. Managers at the nearby E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area found out fuel contamination has spread into the groundwater.
“We were hoping it wasn’t going to make it here,” wildlife area manager Shawn Woods said. “We’ve been told it’s likely they’ll have to do soil removal.”
Contamination also has spread to Coffin Butte Landfill on the other side of the road, Katherine Benenati, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Quality said.
Salem-based Oregon Petroleum Transport is on the hook for the cost of environmental cleanup and for rebuilding an 800-foot stretch of the highway.
On July 7, one of the company’s double-tanker trucks was southbound with a load of about 11,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel when it crashed into a ditch just south of the intersection with Adair Frontage Road, between mileposts 74 and 75.
“We responded quickly. Our insurance company responded quickly. We take this very seriously,” Terry McEvilly, an executive at the privately held company, said Monday.
About 4,500 gallons of gasoline and 1,500 gallons of diesel spilled, Benenati said.
That essentially crumbled the pavement, said Lou Torres, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.
“The damage goes way down,” Torres said. “You have to dig out the road bed and rebuild it.”
Between 7,000 and 9,000 motorists travel that stretch of highway daily. They’ve dealt with intermittent backups and detours while ODOT contractors built a temporary lane on the state-owned right-of-way and dug out the existing road.
Contractors will spend the next week rebuilding the highway and hope to reopen it by July 25. Then, they’ll remove the temporary lane.
More than 6,000 tons of contaminated soil have been removed from the road bed and from along the west side of the highway, bordering Coffin Butte Landfill. That’s more than 1,000 dump truck loads, Torres said.
The soil is being disposed of at the landfill.
DEQ is still trying to determine the extent of groundwater contamination at E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area, Benenati said. Contractors were taking samples Monday.
“If it does come to the surface, that’s where animals could be exposed,” Benenati said.
The 1,788-acre wildlife area is managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It's home to dozens of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
The contamination is in an area known as Check Station Prairie, said Woods, the wildlife area manager.
Trees and brush in the area already have been removed so workers have access for sampling, he said.
“It’s going to cause more noise and more of a visual impact for the wildlife,” he said.
And DEQ had indicated it will need to drill monitoring wells to test for contamination for at least two years, Woods said.
The total cost of the cleanup isn’t yet known, officials said, and the cause of the crash still is under investigation.
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