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Gallons of oil spill into Milwaukie creek

The spill happened after an oil drum ruptured during a fire Oct. 12 and leaked into a nearby storm drain.

MILWAUKIE, Ore. — A cleanup effort is underway after an oil spill dumped gallons of oil into Kellogg Creek and Kellogg Lake in Milwaukie. 

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) are working to contain the spill and rescue any impacted wildlife. An oil containment boom — a temporary floating barrier — and absorbents have been deployed on the lake and river to contain and capture the oil. 

One duck was rescued covered in oil; another duck that was rescued died. Ray Hoy, the acting state-on-scene coordinator for the Oregon DEQ, said officials have seen at least a half dozen other wildlife that had been oiled. 

"We're partnering with ODFW and they have wildlife biologists that are actively doing some recon on the lake," said Hoy. "When they do see them, they try to contain and collect them. However, birds fly and move about pretty quickly, so they're difficult to catch."

Credit: US Ecology

The spill was first reported on October 13, a day after a fire broke out in the rear of D&C Motor Company's service shop on Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard. 

Security camera footage the motor company shared with KGW shows a man wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt walking in and out of the shed that contains the oil drum. In the video, the man is seen walking out with a tray that is smoking, but it's unclear what is on that tray. Moments later, he brings the tray back into the shed and the shed starts to release heavy smoke. 

Credit: D&C Motor Company

Fire investigators said they can't call the fire arson because they don't see the man physically light the fire, but lose control of it. The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office is investigating it as reckless burning.

The fire damaged five cars and ruptured the oil drum. A spokesperson for D&C Motor Company said that the oil drum could hold 350 gallons, but said the drum wasn't completely full. They're not sure how much oil spilled into the creek. Clackamas Fire said a good portion of it burnt in the fire or was contained to the parking lot. The remaining oil washed down into a storm drain, then into a catch basin, eventually making its way to Kellogg Creek.

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"Oil is a contaminant, so it has chemicals that are toxic to fish and wildlife overall. The good thing about oil is that it floats on the water. It's easier to collect than other types of chemicals and contaminants." said Hoy. "In this case on Kellogg Creek, we're booming the lake and the creek, and that basically creates a collection point. Once we have a collection point, we can mop it up and clean it up."

"No amount of oil is good," said Neil Schulman, executive director for the nonprofit North Clackamas Watersheds Council

He said spills like these should be preventable in the future.

"We need to upgrade our storm water infrastructure. We have a lot more people living in the area than we did before. That means there's a lot more buildings, a lot more cars on the road. There's a lot more opportunity for spills, both big and small," said Schulman. 

Hoy said DEQ should be finished cleaning up the spill within a few days.