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Spills Program

Three Sisters Radio Tower Diesel Spill

(Information on this site is considered to be accurate at the time of posting, but is subject to change as new information becomes available.)

Three Sisters Radio Tower Diesel Spill

Feb. 23, 2017, Noon

Ecology, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management (DEM) are responding to a diesel fuel spill at DEM’s Three Sisters Peak communications station.

The facility is located in eastern Pierce County, east of Wilkerson, at about 4,000 feet elevation. The site has no utility service and operates from two diesel generators.

Spill discovered on Feb. 19
A technician discovered breaks in two fuel lines on Sun., Feb. 19, 2017 when visiting the facility after the generator stopped operating. Fuel had sprayed from the fuel line breaks inside the station’s generator shack, accumulated on the floorboards and drained onto the ground below it. The county promptly reported the spill to Ecology and EPA and hired a spill response contractor.

The station is normally reached by snow cat during the winter, because deep snow covers the access road. To enable access by spill responders, the county arranged the clearing three to seven feet of snow that covered five miles of the route to the facility.

Initial evaluation
Ecology, EPA, the county and its contractor inspected the site on Feb. 22, 2017. The teams observed that a fuel hose on each of the facility’s two generators had failed. The hoses were intact when county staff last visited the station about three weeks earlier. The amount spilled was estimated at up to 4,000 gallons. Fuel soaked into the soil beneath the shack.

Cleanup status
The county’s contractor began the cleanup process on Feb. 23, 2017, with initial plans to move the generator shack and focus on removing contaminated soil from an area initially estimated at 15 by 100 feet and 10 feet deep. Crews will make further assessments of the contaminated area during the course of the excavation.

The station is several hundred yards from the nearest surface water, with upper reaches of Old Pond Creek and New Pond Creek about a mile to the north and west. No sign of oil has been observed in any surface waters. The creeks flow into the White River.

Ecology and EPA will continue to monitor response activities and provide technical assistance to the county.

View earlier incident updates


Date of Incident & Location:
Feb. 19/Pierce Co. Three Sisters Peak

Diesel fuel/up to 4,000 gallons

Generator fuel-line leak

Responsible Party:
Pierce County


Larry Altose