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Spills photo identifier

Spills Program

Columbia River Biodiesel 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.)

Columbia River Biodiesel Spill

Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 4 p.m.

Coleman Oil, Inc., has removed all of the fuel from the part of its site that is the source of the biodiesel spill. The above-ground storage tanks are now empty.

Its card-lock fuel station on an adjacent site that dispenses diesel only (not biodiesel) is still in operation. This fuel is contained in double-lined underground tanks.

Coleman Oil has excavated and inspected its underground pipe and has found no more leaks. What’s leaking into the river is what’s currently in the environment.

The company has hired an environmental consultant to help them developed and submit a cleanup plan to Ecology. The cleanup plan is a technical document that details how the company will stop the release of oil into the river, identify its source, and contain and recover oil that is in the water. The spill continues, unfortunately, and we continue to have concerns until it is stopped. It is seeping from the site into the river, so we continue to keep the orange containment boom in place. We continue to use absorbent pads to collect oil in the water and we’re changing them out when they are saturated.

After the seepage into the river has been stopped, our Toxics Cleanup Program will ensure that the site is cleaned up to state standards.


Monday, March 27, 2017, 4 p.m.

A coordinated investigation by state and federal authorities in Wenatchee has identified Coleman Oil, Inc., a fueling facility near the Columbia River, as the source of the biodiesel spill that has been leaking into the river.

The search for the source narrowed last week when spill responders identified the product as biodiesel. The investigation then focused on the facility because of its location near the river and because it handles biodiesel.

The company worked cooperatively with state and federal officials over the weekend to excavate parts of their site. What they found were leaking pipes and soils saturated with red and yellow biodiesel fuels.

“The samples in the soil and the pipes matched the samples we’ve collected from the river,” said Dave Byers, who manages Ecology’s statewide spill response program. “We appreciate the company helping us locate the exact source of the leak.”

Bob Coleman of Coleman Oil, Inc. said, “At Coleman Oil Company a core value of ours is Environmental Stewardship. We deeply regret that there was a release to the environment that appears to have originated at our Wenatchee facility. We will work diligently to contain and eliminate the release, in continued cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies.”

The oil sheen was first spotted on the river the evening of March 17. A diesel odor was reported in the area between Thurston and Chehalis Streets in Wenatchee.

That evening, state, federal and local partners formed a Unified Command to respond, involving the Department of Ecology, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Chelan Emergency Management, with support from several federal, state and local agencies. The Washington State Patrol, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, City of Wenatchee, and Chelan County Fire District 1 also provided on-scene resources to support the spill.


Thursday, March 23, 4 p.m.

We have halted the sonar and underwater camera operations, but we’re maintaining an aggressive investigation to find the source of the spill.

We have collected additional samples from the river and also we’re also collecting samples from possible sources to look for a potential match.

Chelan PUD has provided us with historical maps of the area. The maps date to the 1930s and provide a detailed reference of the local infrastructure at that time. This includes items such as petroleum tanks and storm systems.

We continued to monitor our oil-containment boom from the shore and water today. Some of the oil continues to escape from the containment area due to high river flow.

We are replacing absorbent pads that have become saturated with oil in one 20-foot stretch of river where the product is concentrating.

When a responsible party is verified, we’ll release more information.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 11 a.m.

State laboratory tests revealed late yesterday that the substance creating an oil sheen in Columbia River at Wenatchee is biodiesel. Spill investigators can now narrow their search for its source with a goal to keep it from getting into the river.

Emergency response crews have been working since early Saturday morning to find the source of the mystery spill. They placed oil-containment boom in the river early Sunday morning to contain the oil sheen. Crews have been investigating the scene since Friday, March 17.

Video observed from Chelan PUD surveillance cameras, which are pointed at the river, recorded an oil sheen on the river as early as March 15, two days before it was initially reported by passersby.

By March 18, state, federal and local partners formed a Unified Command to respond, involving the Department of Ecology, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Chelan Emergency Management, with supported several federal, state and local agencies. The Washington State Patrol, City of Wenatchee, and Chelan County Fire District 1 also provided on-scene resources to support the spill.

Up until the lab results came in, responders had been using underwater sonar and cameras to find the spill source.

When a responsible party is verified, more information will be released.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 2 p.m.

Our ongoing investigation to identify and block the source of the spill continues today. We have hired contractor Global Diving & Salvage, Inc. to deploy a side-scanning underwater sonar unit to map the underwater terrain. The next step will be to deploy an underwater camera to look for the source of the spill. We reviewed Chelan PUD Security surveillance video footage from numerous cameras they have pointed at the river. The footage appears to show that the sheen began passing through the area on March 15, two days before it was initially reported. River flows are up.


Monday, March 20, 2017, 3 p.m.

Water samples that we collected are at the lab today to determine the type of product that is in the river. We continue our ongoing, active investigation to find and stop the source of the pollution. We will be using a side-scanning, underwater sonar device as well as an underwater camera. An odor of diesel remains in the area and there is a light rainbow sheen inside the spill-containment boom.

There has been minimal to light staining of the absorbent materials that have been in the river for 24 hours. We will continue to post information here, so stay tuned to this site.


Sunday, March 19, 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Responders continue to address the sheen on the Columbia River in the Wenatchee area. Earlier this morning, Chelan County Emergency Management provided support to place boom on the river to contain the sheen.


Saturday, March 18, 2017, 6 p.m.

Work continued this afternoon on the Columbia River. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began assisting with evaluation of impacts.

Later in the afternoon, an underwater camera was deployed in the Columbia at Wenatchee to find the source of the oil sheen. The response team will continue efforts to address the incident.


Saturday, March 18, 2017, 1 p.m.

Ecology’s Central Regional Office arrived to the scene at 4:45 a.m. to do shore-side assessment and to help determine the source Saturday morning.

Ecology and Chelan PUD both put boats on the water Saturday morning to begin on-water observations and to continue work identifying a source. Chelan PUD's boat has left the scene.

An oil sheen remained in the river, approximately 50 feet from the west shoreline, between Thurston and Chehalis Streets in Wentachee. The continuous sheen spreads to approximately 20 feet wide, and extends approximately 1 mile down river. Responders are reporting a diesel odor in the area.

There have been no observations of wildlife directly impacted by oil.

A Unified Command has been formed with representatives from Ecology, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Chelan Emergency Management, who are supported by a number of other federal, state, and local agencies. The Washington State Patrol, City of Wenatchee, and Chelan County Fire District 1 have also provided on-scene resources to support the spill.

Ecology has mobilized eight Response Team members to:

  • Investigate the source of the oil.
  • Attempt to contain and recover the leaking oil.
  • Protect sensitive environmental, cultural, and economic resources.
  • Assess shoreline impacts.
  • Determine if wildlife impacts have occurred.
  • Keep the public informed.

Ecology continues to inspect the shoreline to determine the source of the sheen.


Friday, March 17, 2017, 8 p.m.

Just prior to 8:00 p.m., Wenatchee Fire reported a large mystery sheen on the Columbia River, just south of the Wenatchee city center. A strong diesel odor was reported in the area as well.

The source of the sheen and the odor are unknown.

SUMMARY INFORMATION


Date of Incident & Location:
March 17, 2017

Approximately 50 feet from the river's west shoreline, between Thurston and Chehalis Streets in Wentachee, WA

Product/Quantity:
Biodiesel, unknown qty.

Cause:
Unknown

Responsible Party:
Coleman Oil, Inc.


NEWS RELEASE


March 27, 2017, Dept. of Ecology:
Source of mystery spill in Columbia River found

March 19, 2017, Dept. of Ecology:
Boom placed on Columbia River to contain mystery sheen


MEDIA CONTACT


Ecology
Sandy Howard
sandy.howard@
ecy.wa.gov

360-407-6990