Whitley Fire and Petroleum 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.)


Friday, 7/27/2007  1:00 pm

Joint Information Center for Whitley Fuel Fire and Petroleum Spill Standing Down

Correction: Press release #4 reported that a wastewater retention pond at the Whitley Fuel site had to be excavated. It was actually cleaned with a vacuum truck. The retention pond will be covered if rain is predicted.

For information about specific issues, please call:

  • Spokane Regional Health District: Cathy Cochrane, 509-324-1689
  • City of Spokane: Marlene Feist, 509-625-6740
  • City of Spokane Fire Department: Brian Schaeffer, 509-625-7002
  • Department of Ecology: Jani Gilbert, 509-990-9177

Whitley Fuel Site

  • A cleanup plan for the site has been developed and approved.
  • Crews will be removing debris at the site today and through the weekend.
  • The Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will monitor cleanup activities at the site.

Human exposure and health issues

  • People living in the vicinity of the Whitley Fuel fire are asked to move their vehicles if there are petroleum stains around the curbs in their area to allow city street maintenance crews to clean up residual runoff.
  • The current risk to public health from petroleum and cleanup products at the site of the Whitley Fuels fire appears to be low. The Spokane Regional Health District is still monitoring conditions.
  • The current risk to public health from petroleum and cleanup products entering the city’s stormwater system and the Spokane River also appears to be low.
  • The regional health district recommends that people avoid the area around the stormwater outfall at T.J. Meenach Bridge until further notice.

Stormwater drain cleanup

  • The city of Spokane Wastewater Management Department has found what appear to be small amounts of oil residue during “hydro-cleaning” of the stormwater system.
  • The amount, concentration and type of petroleum found in the storm drains are under investigation.
  • The wastewater management department continues to request that residents help protect the Spokane River by avoiding major water use, such as power-washing equipment, washing cars in their yards, and excessive watering – particularly if the water will flow into storm drains in the area of Mission Avenue to Francis Avenue in North Spokane.

Spokane River activities

  • No recoverable oil has been found in the Spokane River. However, water samples were taken at several locations yesterday.
  • Lab tests are being conducted to determine whether or not any petroleum was present in the samples as well as possible concentration levels.

Thursday, 7/26/2007  4:00 pm

Activities

Whitley Fuel site  

  • Crews are continuing to monitor potential runoff from the Whitley Fuel site. 

  • Petroleum products in a grassy swale near the Whitley Fuel site were excavated to protect a nearby city drinking-water well.  The swale will be covered today to avoid future precipitation from pushing any remaining contamination down to the groundwater. 

  • The environmental status of the swale will continue to be monitored.

  • The Spokane City Water Department also has developed an aggressive testing program at nearby wells to monitor for ground water contamination to assure the city’s water supply meets all drinking water standards.   

Human exposure and health issues

  • Spokane Regional Health District is evaluating the public health risk that might be present due to petroleum and cleanup products in the environment following the Whitley Fuel fire and the ensuing response on Monday evening.

  • People should avoid exposure to breathing petroleum vapors and any contact with oily residues associated with this incident.

  • The current risk to public health from petroleum and cleanup products at the site of the Whitley Fuels fire appears to be low. We are continuing to monitor the situation.

  • The current risk to public health from petroleum and cleanup products entering the city’s stormwater system and the Spokane River appears to be low; however, we are still investigating the situation.

  • Spokane Regional Health District recommends that people avoid swimming, fishing or other water recreation in the lower portion of the Spokane River, below the outfall, until further notice.

  • People living in the vicinity of the Whitley Fuel fire are asked to move their vehicles to allow the city street maintenance crews to clean up residual runoff along the streets and curbs.

Stormwater drain cleanup

  • The City of Spokane Wastewater Management Department is in the second day of a week-long process of “hydro-cleaning” the stormwater system.  This means that large vacuums will clean the water out of the pipes and a de-greasing agent will be used to wash the pipe.

  • So far the city has cleaned the storm drain from Pittsburg Street and North Foothills Drive – the site of Monday’s fire – to approximately Hogan Street and Jackson Avenue.

  • According to city wastewater officials, no oil was visible in the pipes being cleaned, however, test results will affirm or not if oil was present and at what concentrations.

  • Citizens can help protect the Spokane River by avoiding major water use, such as power-washing equipment, washing cars in their yards, excessive watering – any kind of water use that can flow to storm drains in the area of Mission Avenue to Francis Avenue in North Spokane.

Outfall near T.J. Meenach Bridge

  • Sandbags have been placed at the storm drain outfall and three layers of absorbent “boom” (long, absorbent pads) and an oil containment boom have been placed where water from the outfall enters the Spokane River.  Only a small amount of oily sheen has been captured inside the absorbent materials.

Spokane River activities

  • Crews have one Department of Fish and Wildlife boat out on the river and are currently conducting a survey to determine if there is any petroleum contamination along the river shoreline. 

  • During a second helicopter over-flight conducted yesterday, Ecology and private cleanup contractors observed what appeared to be patches of oily “sheen” in several areas in the river near the Nine Mile Dam.

  • Crews are taking samples to characterize the substances seen from the air and determine if any contain petroleum and can be recovered.


Wednesday, 7/25/2007  4:30 pm

Activities

A second helicopter fly-over was conducted earlier this afternoon.  Department of Ecology and clean-up contractors hired by Whitley Fuel saw what appeared to be an oily “sheen” in:

  • A wetland upstream of Nine Mile Dam on the Spokane River. 

  • A similar sheen was spotted in a second wetland near the Spokane House boat launch. 

  • Sheen also was visible from the air on the river in several other areas – some of which appeared to be heavy in density and other patches that appeared to be lighter. The heaviest patches were observed near the Nine Mile Dam. 

  • Sheen was also visible on the downstream side of Nine Mile Dam.

  • One ribbon of sheen was approximately three yards wide and ran discontinuously from Plese Flats Park to Seven Mile Bridge.

Whether or not the sheen contains petroleum is currently under investigation. The substance that was observed may contain organic materials such as leaves and twigs.  Crews from the state departments of Ecology and Department of Fish and Wildlife are evaluating the sheen pockets to determine if they contain petroleum products and if it can be recovered from the water.  If so, the next step will be determining cleanup options.

A possible reason that the sheen was not visible yesterday was that the windy weather made it difficult.  Another possibility was that the 360 gallons of fire-fighting foam (a surfactant) that was used on the fire Monday night, is starting to biodegrade, allowing oil and other petroleum products to surface. 


Wednesday, 7/25/2007  12:30 pm

While the fire danger is over, the Spokane Fire Department is on-scene to monitor. An investigation into the cause of the fire continues today. Barrier tape has been placed around the area at the stormwater outfall at T.J. Meenach Bridge to prevent citizens from coming into contact with petroleum products in case more of it is flushed to the outfall and into the Spokane River.  Security personnel will be at the Whitley Oil site to ensure no one interferes with the investigation, and to ensure no one is injured in the debris.

Today’s activities/priorities:

  • Crews will continue to monitor any runoff from the Whitley Oil site.  The city will begin today a seven-day process of “hydro-cleaning” the stormwater system.  This means that large vacuums will clean the water out of the pipes and a de-greasing agent will be used to wash the pipe.  Plugs have been placed in the system to prevent any further contamination of the river.

  • In case petroleum products do get through to the Spokane River, absorbent “boom” (long, absorbent pads) and oil containment boom have been placed at the outfall near the T.J. Meenach Bridge to catch oil and any other products. This contain the petroleum products so they can be cleaned up and avoid flowing down the river.  Today that boom will be reinforced by additional material.

  • A second over-flight by helicopter will be conducted today in order to scan the river for patches of oily “sheen” (which are generally only molecules thick and mostly impossible to recover) or for “pockets” of petroleum products along the shoreline between T.J. Meenach Bridge and Nine Mile Dam.  The over-flight is scheduled for noon.  Avista is monitoring for petroleum products at Nine-Mile Dam.

  • Ecology will continue to assess environmental damage and try to determine how much petroleum product was lost as a result of Monday’s fire.

  • A disposal plan for the contaminated water and oily waste will be developed today.  Debris, as it is examined and cleaned up, will go to the Waste-to-Energy Plant.

  • Petroleum products in a grassy swale near the Whitley Oil site have been excavated to protect a nearby city drinking-water well.  The environmental status of the swale will continue to be monitored.  The swale will be covered to avoid future precipitation.

 

 

   

Photo taken by Rebecca Post, Department of Ecology.

SUMMARY INFORMATION

Date of Incident:
July 23, 2007

Location:
Whitley Fuel LLC,
2733 N. Pittsburg Road, Spokane, WA

Product/Quantity:
Mixed (includes motor oil, diesel fuel, racing fuel, hydraulic and transmission fluid, lubricating oil, etc.)

Cause:
Fire – cause under investigation

Responsible Party:
Whitley Fuel LLC


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