The city of Salem has shut off its Geren Island water intake following a spill of as much as 11,600 gallons of unleaded gasoline into the North Santiam River.
Between storage reserves and groundwater wells, the city can serve its customers for several days without using river water, said Salem Public Works spokeswoman Heather Dimke.
A semi-tanker carrying gasoline slid on ice, overturned and caught fire on Highway 22 at about 11 p.m. Friday, killing the driver, 58-year-old Ronald Edward Scurlock of Bend.
Some of the gasoline burned off in the fire, but the rest spilled onto the roadway and into the river. About 200 yards of soil on both sides of the roadway are contaminated and will need to be excavated, said Katherine Benenati, a Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman.
Highway 22 is closed indefinitely in both directions between milepost 55 at the east end of Idanha to the Santiam Junction where Highway 22 and U.S. Highway 20 intersect.
Travelers going between the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon should use U.S. Highway 20, which runs along the South Santiam River and through Sweet Home.
The crash and spill occurred at milepost 63, about 8 miles east of Idanha. The crash site is about 45 miles east of Salem’s Geren Island drinking water intake.
By Saturday night, some of the gasoline already had made its way downstream and could be smelled in Detroit, about 10 miles west of the crash site.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was scheduled to take air and water samples along the river Sunday.
The cities of Gates, Lyons-Mehama and Stayton also get their drinking water from the North Santiam.
Salem provides drinking water for about 192,000 people.
The city turned off its water intake at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dimke said. It decided not to notify the public until more is known.
Salem’s groundwater wells are at the Geren Island treatment plant. It also stores water in a naturally occurring aquifer 350 feet below Woodmansee Park in south Salem. That water is normally used during the summer to meet higher demand and with the Santiam flows decline.
This is the second major fuel spill in the region this year. In July, a double-tanker truck crashed into a ditch on Highway 99W near Adair Village southwest of Salem, spilling between 3,000 and 3,400 gallons of gasoline and about 1,500 gallons of diesel.
The cleanup and road repair took nearly two months, causing traffic detours and delays.
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