Boom placed on Columbia River to contain mystery sheen

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Columbia River boom placement (Photo courtesy of the Department of Ecology)

According to the Department of Ecology:

Monday, March 20:

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:

5:09p.m.- The Department of Ecology deployed an underwater camera in the Columbia at Wenatchee to find the source of an oil sheen. More work ahead.

12p.m.- Emergency response crews placed a boom on the Columbia River near Wenatchee early Sunday morning to contain an oil sheen that is mysteriously getting into the river. Crews have been investigating since Friday and are unable locate the source of the petroleum-like substance.

Columbia River work efforts (Photo courtesy of the Department of Ecology)
The oil sheen was first spotted on the river Friday evening and a diesel odor was reported in the area between Thurston and Chehalis Streets in Wenatchee. First responders included Chelan County Emergency Management, Chelan County Fire District 1, Chelan Pubic Utilities, City of Wenatchee, Washington Department of Ecology, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is supporting resources for investigation and clean up.
Efforts to determine where the sheen was coming from included inspections of a nearby fuel distributor, a BNSF rail-car switch station, a rigorous search through manholes and drain pipes, and an underwater camera. None of these efforts revealed the source. Ecology spill responders collected samples of the sheen for testing in hopes it will help identify the source.
Crews also conducted a day-long assessment of shoreline impacts Saturday. Help from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was enlisted to determine if any fish, birds, or other wildlife were affected by the sheen. Ducks, geese, a river otter, and a marmot were seen and none appeared to be coated by the sheen.
Columbia River boom efforts (Photo courtesy of the Department of Ecology)
“We want to contain and recover as much of the substance as we can,” said Jay Carmony, on-site Ecology spill response lead. “Diesel fuel and similar products can be difficult to recover because they are light and evaporate quickly.”
Carmony said that the fast-moving river and high winds have been presenting safety issues for response crews but that efforts will continue and new strategies are being considered to find the source of the sheen.
For ongoing updates about the incident, visit Ecology’s incident web page.