Diesel spill closes marina at Willard Bay State Park, shuts down pipeline
Tom Smart, Deseret News
WILLARD, Box Elder County — Parts of Willard Bay State Park were closed Tuesday after a pipeline break led to the release of diesel fuel into a retention pond and drainage ditch near the park.
The park's North Marina and campground were closed indefinitely as a result of the leak, said Deena Loyola of Utah State Parks and Recreation. All campers were evacuated Monday evening, and park employees were working Tuesday to de-winterize the South Marina.
Greg Hardy, state government affairs representative at Chevron, said release of fuel was detected by a sensor around 2:30 p.m. Monday on a pipeline that transports materials from Chevron's Salt Lake City refinery to Idaho.
"When it was discovered or identified that there was a possible leak, the system was shut down immediately and crews were sent out to the site," Hardy said. "We mobilized emergency and cleanup crews and initiated all the emergency response procedures."
Diesel was visible, and booms were used to contain the spill, he said.
"At this point in time, there is no indication" that anything leaked into Willard Bay, Hardy said. Water samples have been taken to determine whether the diesel fuel reached the bay. Chevron is now working to identify where the leak was, what may have caused it and how much diesel was released.
The Utah Division of Water Quality estimates that between 4,200 gallons and 6,300 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the pipeline. Chevron will be able to generate a closer estimate of the amount of fuel spilled by measuring the speed of the flow of diesel fuel in the pipe and by measuring the amount of product recovered during the cleanup.
"We're satisfied that Chevron has put the proper amount of resources on this right now," said John Whitehead, DWQ's assistant director.
As far as the speed of recovery, "it will take some time," Whitehead said.
Chevron crews will first pull up the diesel fuel in the water and in the dirt surrounding the leak. Then comes what Whitehead calls the "ticklish part" of cleanup.
Because the fuel leaked into a stream, officials with the Department of Environmental Quality, local health department and state parks will need to determine whether to dig up the contaminated areas — and disrupt the fragile ecosystem — or let the environment clean itself out.
The pipeline is 168 miles long with a capacity of 20,000 to 30,000 barrels a day.
Hardy said cleanup efforts were under way Tuesday, and all government agencies have been notified about the leak.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said in a news release the fuel spilled into Willard Creek, where it was contained by a beaver dam. None of the fuel made its way to the reservoir, the agency reported.
Two beavers were contaminated in the fuel spill and were "pretty saturated," said Phil Douglass, regional outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. They were taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, where firefighters used hazardous materials equipment to try and soak up as much fuel as possible.
"They were (also) washed in a solution of Dawn detergent," Douglass said. "Every effort is being made to save these beavers."
Because they are aquatic creatures, he said there is a possibility the beavers also ingested some of the fuel, which would cause respiratory issues. Whether they will survive is "hard to say."
"They could be (at the rehabilitation center) for a couple of months," Douglass said. "It's just too early to tell right now, but every effort is being made to treat them and give them a fighting chance."
Diesel fuel is toxic, said Dalyn Erickson, wildlife specialist at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. It can cause severe skin irritation issues and respiratory issues.
Both beavers had two baths as of Tuesday evening and started medications to help coat their intestinal tracts in an attempt to prevent further damage to the tract and help pass ingested fuel more easily. They are also giving the beavers preventative medication for treating respiratory infections.
At this point, the beavers seem to be doing well, Erickson said, but it could be weeks before resperatory and intestinal issues are evident.
The fumes clinging onto the beavers were so strong that many of the 15 volunteers working on the beavers Tuesday had headaches.
"It's so overpowering that it's unreal," Erickson said.
Depending on the severity of the spill, the youngsters — not even a year old — will either be reintroduced to the bay or the rehabilitation center will work with the Division of Wildlife Services to find them a new home.
Loyola said James Morgan, Willard Bay State Park manager, "is working with Chevron, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, Bureau of Reclamation, and Division of Wildlife Resources to ensure the protection of all resources, including wildlife habitat."
Updated information on the park is available at stateparks.utah.gov/parks/willard-bay.
Contributing: Sandra Yi and Shara Park
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